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Poker Information

Using Information in Poker

by Jesse Knight
Online Poker Information

Trading Information in Poker

Poker InformationWhen we think about information as it pertains to poker, it is helpful to think about it as everywhere and infinite. Of course, we are human, and so we are limited in our ability to perceive, collect and process this information. Since we are only able to process a fraction of the information available to us, we would be well served to develop information processing systems that help us to identify valuable information, and deal with it in a more efficient, productive manner.

While information by its nature is infinite, useful, exploitable information is very much limited. Of this limited amount of useful information that is flying around the poker table, each player gives away, collects, and processes a different, but finite amount, based upon their ability to do so. The best players in the world have highly refined methods of dealing with poker information, and they use their superior methodology to dominate in the game. And so our ability to succeed in a poker game is determined, in large part, by how well we deal with information relative to our opponents.

Information Processing Strategies the Pros use


Professional players understand how critical it is to have an informational advantage over their opponents. They have developed widely used techniques that increase the amount of poker information acquired, and reduce the amount of information given away. We will discuss several of these techniques briefly, so that you may incorporate them into your game.

Information acquisition begins when you enter the poker room. The first thing to do is size up the games. Decide which game you would most like to play in, based upon the action and the players. If you have a choice between open seats, choose based upon who would be to your left or right. Generally, you want the loose, aggressive players on your right, so that you can see what they are going to do before you get involved, and so that you can punish them when they get out of line. If there are no loose cannons in the game, find a nice rock to lean on (keep the tight, predictable player on your left).

Once you sit down in the game it is time to pay attention. Incidentally, this is not a passive endeavor. Professionals are always in pursuit of any tidbit of poker information that they can use to their advantage, because gaining small bits of information can often make the difference between winning and losing huge pots. Poker information will come in both verbal and non-verbal forms. Be aware of and prepared for both. Pay attention to the conversation between hands.

As the cards are being dealt, pay particular attention to the action behind you. Players will often give away if they intend to raise, call or fold. Many players will look at their cards one at a time, as they arrive. This is a terrible idea, especially for tournament play. Wait until it is your turn to act to look at your cards. This will leave you undistracted and free to gather information during a critical time, when others are reacting to looking at their cards. It also prevents you from giving away information about your hand before you act.

When it is your turn to act, do not act too quickly. Good players slow the game down, just a little bit. This gives you time to act in a calm, composed manner. Do not vary the manner in which you put the chips in the pot. There are numerous poker tells associated with this variance. Try to breath in an even, rhythmic manner, as holding your breath is also a tell. Try not to talk too much, especially when you have a big hand. In a poker game, private information tends to be more valuable than public information. What this means is, if you know something that no one else in the game knows, keep it to yourself! Sharing the information will make it less valuable to you.

Poker Information as a commodity

Because valuable information is scarce, and its distribution is unequal, it operates very much like a commodity. While it is typically not bought and sold, it is often traded. The principle here is straightforward: If you can engage trading information with other players, and the value of the information you gain is greater than the value you give to your opponents, you have helped yourself.

Because poker is a game of leverage and dominance, information transactions are rarely mutually beneficial. One party is almost always giving up value to another, and both parties are giving up value to those players at the table watching the transactions. In other words, players who engage in information trading pay a dividend to other players who are paying attention.

Most players are vaguely aware that these information transactions are occurring, and because they are self interested, they do not wish to give up more value than they receive. Many professionals recognize this, and so they are forced to obfuscate their intentions through various means. Many will set “information traps,” where they appear to give up information for free, but usually, by the time the transaction is over, they have usurped value. Daniel Negreanu is a master at this. He is constantly talking to the other players, attempting to initiate information transactions. He often gives away huge chunks of poker information when it does not seem logical to do so. But remember that a small piece of information may be more valuable to a professional than a large piece is to an amateur. And so his “gift” of free information often ends up being a trap, he gets the crucial information he needs, and the chips go his way.

If you are a new player, it is good idea to avoid information trading, especially with players who are more sophisticated than you are. Trading poker information with someone who is at a higher level than you will almost always turn out badly for you. However, in the long run, it will improve your game if you can master the technique. A good way to start is by practicing in low limit games where the primary objective of most players is to have fun. Try initiating information transactions by talking a lot to the other players, and watching how they react. This way, the information that you give will be mostly verbal, but what you receive will be both verbal and non-verbal. See how much of “the best of it” you can get.

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Other Articles by Jesse Knight:
Pot Limit Omaha - The Action Game
Poker Game Theory
Poker Logic: Game Theory Modeling and Poker
Omaha Poker Tips: Transitioning from Hold'em to Omaha
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