Poker Hacking is the idea that other players at the table can be tested for weaknesses much in the same way that you'd test a computer, by trying lots of different things and seeing how they react. It's a novel idea that requires you to carefully understand how players react to strange plays which will help you form an intuitive understanding of their playing style.
A recent article in the New York Times caught my eye. It discusses a paper in cognitive psychology titled "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties of Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-assessments."
According to the paper, there are two types of people in the world: those who have enough experience to know they're making a mistake, and those who don't have that much experience yet. In this world-view, the amateur player makes a mistake but also fails to realize that it was a mistake.
This connection has been made before in other competitive games. Stefan Fatsis, in a book about professional Scrabble players, compares amateur players to professional players: "In a way, the living-room player is lucky . . . He has no idea how miserably he fails with almost every turn, how many possible words or optimal plays slip by unnoticed. The idea of Scrabble greatness doesn't exist for him."
This is a great reason why it's important not to tap the glass in poker. An amateur player may not yet know enough to realize that he needs to learn more. As soon as he realizes how little he knows, you have started him on the path to being a professional. It would be interesting to look back and find out how many of today's professionals were motivated to learn the game by a guy needling them in chat.
The average poker player does not realize what clues he is missing in a hand. He may make a decision based on some bits of information, but not others. A professional knows what clues to look for and how he should play because of them. That's why "How could you call there? I was clearly representing a set." is already going too far. Now that the fish has started thinking about what you "are representing," he's on his way to second- and third-level thinking.
The "unskilled and unaware of it" situation is also one of the primary reasons why hiring a coach will do more for your game than anything else. Your coaches should have coaches of their own. A good coach will teach you to recognize and avoid the mistakes that you are currently unaware of.
One might ask the question, why is it more profitable to play against crazy, unpredictable players instead of playing against people who are more rational?
The answer is simple: An unpredictable player exploits himself.
How about the most simple example -- bet sizing. Good players don't often bet pot. They understand that it's not the best way to get value from weaker hands, and its not the most efficient bluff size. So, by frequently betting pot, a fish has exploited himself, in a way.
Good players also tend to merge their range, whereas fish may polarize theirs. This makes it easier to play turns and rivers, where the pot is large.
Additionally, take the following game dynamic. If I'm folding too often preflop, my opponent should begin raising every hand against me. In fact, if I'm folding 60% or more of my hands, this strategy wins money every raise. When my opponent does not exploit this by raising every hand, he's missing an edge. When my opponent misses edges that I would not miss, I win Sklansky bucks.