It’s amazing how the most basic of human functions are able to control the conscious mind. Scientific experiments on mice and pigeons and more recently cuttlefish have shown that they can be taught to react to a specific sign with a specific behavior, much like Pavlov’s dogs. Ring a bell and our animal friend will expect food. They become so conditioned to believing this through repetition that they always expect the same result.
Additional studies have shown that once this conditioning is thoroughly ingrained, the subject will not seek to learn more possible variations of the same phenomenon. So, once the cuttlefish understands that a certain sign, say a red square, means food is on the way and a blue circle means no food, it has already come to the conclusion that that only a red square means food. It is stuck with this one experience and ventures no further.
Having thoroughly mastered one condition, he blocks his mind to any other possibility, even though there may be strong indications there is one. Think about your own experience. Have you ever been jolted into a sudden illuminating thought that had never occurred to you before? Like maybe the group of intelligentsia running our country have no more capability to do so than you do?
This phenomenon is reminiscent of the Rashomon effect. I call it that because in the classic movie, there were several witnesses to an event. Each witness saw the event from solely his own perspective and reality and each witness related differently what he had seen, yet they all saw exactly the same event. We will now return to our poker analogy. A group of players are taking a break and discussing another player (who is not present) who to their minds is a real loser and wonders why he is still in the game. They agree on this and swear each other to secrecy so they can go back to the table and fleece the guy. By revealing to each other the particulars as to how the outsider was playing, they discovered they each saw a completely different bit of behavior. One noticed that every time outsider had a good hand, he makes the bet and balls his hands into fists, never doing so with a bad hand. The other notices when outsider has a bad hand, he plays with his chips in a most annoying way, without doing this in any other situation.
So that the terrible player in seat 4 has at least two tells to betray him, but each pro has only discovered one. But where is written that there is never more than one tell to discover? Both of the better players had discovered sure tells and that surety blocked their superior minds from registering any additional clues.
This is not a trivial realization. In fact, what often distinguishes the best players is their flexibility to learn and keep actively in mind throughout the game a number of each opponent’s tells, classifying each according to importance and plausibility, increasing the possibilities of winning.