Understanding your level of Awareness
Level 1 in poker is said to be where you just play YOUR cards without regard to what your opponent may be holding or the action he/she takes. When the primary focus is on YOUR cards and chips (you may even find the chin is literally tucked in to the chest looking down at your own cards and chips most of the time) then you are playing level 1.
People who are playing on level 2 or higher don’t understand these people and have little patience for them even though they may just be learning the game. You usually see it when someone can’t contain themselves after taking a bad beat and exclaim; “How can you play that junk?!” You see it from Phil Hellmuth all the time on national TV exclaiming, “This guy’s an idiot!”
Level 2 in poker is when you not only play your cards but you also consider what your opponent may have and how he’s playing. Your primary focus has switched from you to your opponent; “awareness” has developed of your surroundings. Why? Because you now have more concern for your opponents? No, that’s life’s level 2. In poker, it is simply a development of strategy and a means to an end. You now give your self two ways to win. When you make your hand or when you know your opponent misses and take the pot away.
In transitioning beginning players to this level I teach them to change their focus from what I call “Down and In,” to “Up and Out.” A shift of primary focus from their own cards (where the chin is literally tucked into the chest looking down at their own cards and chips) to their opponents. How do you learn to do this? By raising your level of awareness and shifting your focus from your self to putting it on others. Observing others going through the motions and employing your new found knowledge is fun but the real interesting journey is when you start to encounter others who are playing on this same level of awareness as you are. This level eventually leads back to your self and now propels those who have the need to challenge themselves to level 3.
This level becomes necessary when the games you play are filled with people who are also playing on level 2 and your strategy is no longer effective. “I Know He Knows I Know.” Why? Because he also Knows! He knows what you are doing and has developed a strategy to counter act your ignorance exploiting strategy.
This “knowing,” (level 2) is what is called an awakening in life. Left on the felt it accomplishes a simple objective of accumulating plastic chips. Put into practice off the felt is where life begins to get interesting. When you first develop this awareness and your trying to exploit someone you think is playing on level 1 (but you are wrong) something interesting happens. You suddenly get played back at and it is almost like an unspoken vibration happens that says; “Why are you doing this to me? Look somewhere else.” There are many examples and words that point to the unaware. In poker they are simply known as “the fish.”
I played the Heads Up tourney at Caesars Palace a couple of days ago. 128 players started and I cashed winning my first two matches and making it to the round of 32. I made a move on my opponent that didn’t work out for me which pivoted the match. With the blinds at 50-100 my opponent limped on the button. I raised to 400 with AJo. He called. The flop fell K/2/4. I continuation bet 500 and he called. Believing that he would have raised before the flop with a King (because that’s what I would have done! Lol!) I assumed he was floating me. So my intention on the turn was to shut him down by legitimizing in his mind that I had a King with a big kicker. How best to do this? Check-Raise of course. So when a 7 hit the turn I checked and as expected he lead for 800. I now raise to 2100 expecting to bring home the chips but after a few moments he calls! I now have 30% of my 10,000 stack in the middle with no pair. Seems like too much to give up on so when a blank 9 hits the river I decide to fire 2400 bluff in hopes of making it look like a value bet. He quickly calls and flips over K/5o to take the pot and pivot the match.
In playing my opponents hand I failed to understand his pre flop strategy and made my own assumptions based on my own tendencies. Projecting your tendencies and thinking onto someone else is part of what we will be talking about in understanding Level 3 which I will do in my next blog.
In reaching for another level myself, I went to a consciousness and awareness “meet up” here in Las Vegas last night. I went to understand myself more fully and to meet people who are travelling along the same path. It was a great time and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you along the way.
En-Joy the Journey,
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