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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF POKER

Psychological Plays

The late John Crawford was one of the great games players and gamblers of all time. His best games were bridge and backgammon, but he was also an excellent gin rummy player. He and the legendary games expert Oswald Jacoby used to play gin rummy against each other constantly. They were close in ability, but there was no question Crawford had the psychological edge. He would needle Jacoby, taunt him, even laugh at his play, until Jacoby sometimes became so enraged he could hardly see the cards in front of him.

Along the same lines, Los Angeles backgammon pro Gaby Horowitz is well-known for his glib, sometimes disparaging talk during a game, which is calculated to put his opponents on tilt. Seven-card stud poker pro Danny Robinson is equally famous for his nonstop patter during a hand, which is used to distract and confuse his opponents.

These are all psychological ploys, and there are an endless number of such ploys. Some people approve of them. Some don't. While they have a definite place in poker, they are not what we mean by the psychology of poker. They are psychological devices that apply to all games or, for that matter, to all forms of competition. Chess champion Bobby Fischer used them in his famous match against Soviet master Boris Spassky. Managers like Earl Weaver and Billy Martin use them on the baseball diamond. And the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was notorious for using them as tactics of cold war diplomacy.

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