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Introduction

 

A Decent Read


One of the important skills is reading hands that should be well developed for a player to succeed above the smaller limit poker games.

Two key aspects of hand reading in hold'em are:
1. Reading your rival's actions on each betting round, and limiting down hand he might have, in respect of the cards that have been dealt with it.

2. Remembering backward of all the hand to read the meaning of your rival's action in respect of the previous cards and his previous actions.

As seen, these two elements are closely interconnected. Practically, they will often be indistinguishable as part of hand reading process, but for sake of study it is useful to differentiate them.

For more discussion on hand reading, refer to Skylansky and Malmuth's Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players: 21st Century Edition as well as The Theory of Poker and Hold'em Poker both by David Skylansky.


A Bet From Out of Nowhere

To explain the above points, I will mention a read from a hand I played. It precisely represent the process of eliminating hands your rival might have by reading actions as the hand advances and successive cards are dealt. It is also an example of looking back to see what his action on the end might focus in the light of his previous actions in the hand.

This hand happens in a $40-$80 hold'em poker game which was about the average for a game at this limit in Southern California with respect to its level as a whole, of tightness and aggression. I will not discuss the thinking behind my actions throughout the hand. It is far away beyond this essay. But I will mention only my read of my rival's hand.
I was in the small blind holding:

Everyone folded and I finished the small blind for $20. (Keep in mind that this game is played with a time charge rather than a rake or drop. Hence, many of the players, including myself, chose not to "chop" in the blinds.) In a head-up situation, the player in the big blind who is very aggressive did not raise. The flop was:

I checked and he checked too. As he was not an aggressive player, but a tricky one, this clicked me that he either had very little, maybe two low cards without any connection to the flop or he was slow-playing something with strong cards. The turn came:

We both again checked. Now I definitely knew he had nothing good. I knew I very likely had the best hand. Do you know why? If not, then you might have to thinking about how I could have concluded that my hand was likely the best.
The river was:

Now this time I checked and he bet. It was like a bet from out of nowhere. Why so? I knew this online poker player well enough to know that he almost surely would have bet earlier in the hand with any pair. He also would have bet with ace-high most of the time. He was confidence to know that such a bet could be beneficial either as a bet for value or as a semi-bluff. Hence, it was not possible for him to have any ace or any other pair. Also he might not have like king-high. All but one of them would give him two overcards with which he would have raised pre-flop and bet after the flop, or a gut shot draw on the turn which he would likely have bet. This is what made my king-high a strong favorite to be the best hand.

So what my rival's bet mean? Just I had noticed his checking on every previous round and had concluded that he was having a bad hand, he had noticed mine. He thought my check suggested a weak hand for me as well. He thought I wouldn't call his bet (and assumed I was unlikely to check-raise as a bluff), and so reasoned he had a good chance to win the pot with a bet. I thus made him put into confident on a bluff. So I called with my considerably "good" no pair hand, despite getting 2-to-1 from the pot. He showed and I won the pot.

Observe that this read was made simpler by the poker hands being played heads-up. With many players in it, not only might I have had to read other hands, but I would be less certain of my read of this rival's hand. For example, he would have been a little less likely to bet before the river with something like a small pair or ace-high.

The above two skills here are significant to develop so as to be a good reader. Try out to eliminate hands as you relate your rival's actions on each round to the cards that have come. Remember backward from the current round through all connected to the previous rounds to see how his current action does well when connected to the previous cards and actions. Clue: As was the situation with this hand, you will sometimes identify a bluff because his current action does not do well in that respect.

Countering a Good Reader

As you move ahead from the basics, reading hands become an essential part of play. Experts and other authors usually agree that reading hands may be single important advanced skill. It is closely related with reading rival's thoughts - what refer in The Theory of Poker by Skylansky when he explains the process of thinking about what your rival is thinking. Similarly, there is a clear positive correlation between players' skill levels and their reading abilities. To put other way, better players are better readers and their reads make them to win money. They use them to save money on losing hands, and make more money on winning hands.

Therefore, when you play against such players you should counter their reading abilities. You do this with your own reading skills. You read their hands selection, evaluate what they read you for (reading their read, if you will) and use deception. The main object of the deception is to make them put you on the wrong hand. You therefore maneuver their read, leading them to play their hand differently from how they would if they read you correctly.

This obviously makes you win more money. Frequently, against tougher players, the kinds of deception I am talking about is far away from this topic and well known plays like raising for a free card or semi-bluffing with a draw.

 

Continue Here: Persuading A Wrong Read To Excessive Action

 



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