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The expressions levelling or to level derive from the concept of level thinking. At the poker tables this means that before you choose an action, you try to think on the level of your opponent in order to figure out what impression the action will give him. You basically think about what he might be thinking.
The levels of thinking can be categorized as a level one player, who only thinks about their own cards, a level two player, who also considers their opponent’s holdings, a level three player, who also considers their own image and what their opponents think they have, and so on.
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There may be some patterns in your game that other players might detect. For example, you might occasionally try to take the pot with a pure bluff on certain boards in certain situations. If you are in such a situation, but fear that your opponent is aware of how you will play and that he might therefore re-bluff, you might also be tempted to bluff again and so on.
This can work out fine, but it could also happen that you are levelling yourself into an action at the table. This would be the case for example if you get too caught up in your level thinking when you try to justify a specific action, while the opponent isn’t even giving the situation any further thought because he already has the nuts.
The Different Levels of Thinking
In order to get beyond the cards you need to be thinking about your opponents and the situation you’re presented with. Here are the basic levels of thinking:
- 1st Level – What cards do I have?
- 2nd Level – What do my opponents have?
- 3rd Level – What do they think I have?
- 4th Level – What do they think I think they have?
- 5th Level – Yes, you can keep going and going…..
Theoretically we could keep going to deeper levels of thinking, but you’re only going to find a very limited percentage of players who are capable of thinking this deeply – and if they are, they’re probably over thinking the situation anyway.
While getting to deeper and deeper levels of thinking does mark a more mature stage of poker skill, the best players recognize if their opponents are even capable of thinking that deeply.
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