Ligaz11 Review of The Psychology of Poker

“What in the world were they thinking?” I’m sure I’m not the only poker player who has asked this questions literally hundreds of times at the poker table. What drives players to play the way they do, especially if they play badly? What drives each of us to do things at the table that we know are costing us money? In The Psychology of Poker, Alan N. Schoonmaker, who holds a PhD in psychology, attempts to understand what motivates poker players and to understand how they think and why.


After an introduction, Schoonmaker asks the reader to examine their own game, looking at one’s own motivations and skills critically and honestly. Of course, if one isn’t truly honest, much of the rest of the book won’t help, but the author does a good job of guiding the reader toward understanding their true motivations. Poker skills are covered next, including reading hands and game selection, with a discussion about how one’s personal tendencies influence these skills. Next, Schoonmaker introduces a grid system on which players can be rated. Tightness vs. looseness and passiveness vs. aggressiveness are discussed, and the reader is guided through the process of rating oneself and other players on this scale.


The problem is that this doesn’t cover the whole picture. As one example, a player can be tight and aggressive, playing few hands but playing those strong, but if these hands are garbage, they won’t go very far. There’s at least a third axis (and probably several more) that includes good and bad decision making. Counting the number of hands and the proportion of raises to calls can be useful, but it still gives an incomplete picture, and this may lead to an improper strategy. The author does mention the possibility that a player may …