Recognizing and Exploiting Others’ Confirmation Bias at the Poker Table

In a previous post, I discussed how to recognize and manage your own confirmation bias at the poker table. I wanted to follow up those thoughts with a different approach to confirmation bias, namely exploiting your opponents’ bias at the poker table. In many ways, I’ve found this to be an even more productive exercise than trying to manage your own confirmation bias, which has limits and trade-offs that must be continually whittled away at through the breadth of your experience.


Representing, Storytelling, False Tells, Confirmation Bias: It’s All the Same

All these phrases are really interconnected as different aspects of the same strategy. Part of optimizing your play is to know when to change gears and vary your tactics so that you don’t become too predictable, but within the course of a single hand, one of the critical questions is always what information are you providing to your opponents? The order (which round of betting) and strength of the information (the size and nature of the bet) create an information trail that gets turned into a story (with a beginning, middle, and end) told to your opponent about the strength or weakness of your hand.

Knowing what hand you’re representing in the mind of your opponent is absolutely critical. It helps you recognize when a bluff is more or less likely to be successful. For those players who have developed false tells, recognizing the larger narrative and the pot stakes can help you choose the best time to deploy these tells and without necessarily revealing the false tell itself. More to this point, while managing your own confirmation bias takes time and experience, exploiting your opponent’s confirmation bias can be achieved more quickly through a combination of intuition and acting skill.

This general strategy also explains one of the things I like to say about the progression of learning poker. Beginners try to play their own hand. Amateurs try to play against their opponent’s hand. Professionals play against their opponent’s perception of their hand and yours.