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Quick Indicators

For playing poker well, you have to accurately judge your rival's play. The first and main step in this play is generally to collect some evidence relating to their basic level of knowledge. It obviously behooves you to do this immediately. The ability for doing this comes with the smallest effort as you have enough knowledge of poker to recognize rivals' mistakes. But as guidance, I will give some tip-offs in hold'em that better players look for as an indicator of an unknown rival's basic level of knowledge.

This should give not only a look into one small field of the thinking of a skilled players as he plays, but also some materials you can consider in your own game to see how to quantify them. If you find in your own play any kind of the tip-offs of the "unschooled" players, it might indicate that your game requires some work. Having one exception, the indicators I gave are the elements of play. There are also important indicators to be looked in a player's appearance and behavior but are of less value as you will know whether or not to eliminate after some time.

1. What his cold calls suggest you? One feature of the "unschooled" player is the propensity to call raises cold more frequently than the best players do. In fact, you should have a very good hand to play against a cold raise a better hand than you need to raise with. In difficult situation, these hands are normally good enough to re-raise with. And there are some hands with which it is apt to call a raise. There are other situations in which you can call with obvious re-raising hands. But observe number of expert players and look at what they do when they decide to play in poker a hand against a raise. They will more often re-raise. Therefore, when they watch a player who frequently calls raises cold it is serious tip-off to them what he will possibly be weak or average in his play.

I will indicate that there are little sections of theory, given to by excellent players, which call raises more often than this. But such players are found very rarely. They are exceptions. So instead of arguing the advantage of such a strategy, I only want to indicate that this concept of play depends on good natural guess as to how well a new rival is possibly to play.
Also notice that if you get the chance to see a pre-flop cold caller's cards, you will have even accurate information. If you see that he is calling raises cold with hands he should re-raise with, which is worse. However, if he is calling with hands like


that is another (big enough) step in his understanding of the game.

2. Does he demonstrate an understanding to position? A skilled and experienced holdem poker game player will often play tightly early than he does in last position. However, many weak players play very loose to position. They will play with hands like

as easily under the gun as they will on the button because "Its two big cards to play!" Just be attentive to what he shows down from the early positions. There are small numbers of hands that are profitable from these positions, so it means clearly when you see a player often showing down his hands that no one is good enough to benefit from an early position. Be careful, though a good player can play seldom most likely ridiculous hands early to add mix to his play and persuade on the part of his rival to figure out his incorrect reading.

3. How is his play in the blinds? One simple way to spot tip-off of a player's basic level of knowledge is whether or not he ever throws a hand away for half a bet in the small blind. If he does not fold some hands, then he is one of the loose games players.
Does he repeatedly defend his big blind when it is raised? All right, then what about his small blind? Near small blind defenders always have clear weaknesses in their play and are generally bad players on the whole.

4. How does he play in respect to the dimensions, "loose/tight" and "passive/aggressive?" Though, correct play may change according to the kind of game you are in, better players prefer to play a tight, aggressive kind of play. For instance, if you are particularly sitting in a middle-limit game, about average overall in the tightness and aggression of the players involved, and you see enough of a rival's play to know that he is very loose and aggressive, you should be certain that he is playing less than expertly. More attention and observation is needed in order to evaluate how bad he plays, but this easy indicator is a good beginning.

5. Can he lay a hand down? You should observe if and when he folds at the time of playing a number of hands. (Don't get caught by a player who has played well for a while. Be confirmed that you have seen enough hands to be profitable. That includes seeing hands shown down.) If he is finding difficult to lay hands down, then you may have found a "calling station." If he is a passive poker player and calls frequently then you are playing with an easiest and profitable kind of player.

6. Is his play straightforward or is he showing signs of deception? You of course tend to play with the straightforward player (unless your rival is complete fanatic). He bets when he has something, checks when he has little and raises only with strong hands. His lack of deception tells you what kind of hand he has all the time. To identify where you stand in respect to your rival in a hand is a good profit.

7. How does he react to "bad hands"? It is another simple indicator. It is completely behavioral indicator that I will include. I did so because it is actually consistent. Though there are few skilled players who steam their money off and many players who do moan a little after the bad hand, the most of the time when you see a player react with deep aggravation, tension or disgust that player seems out to be average. However, such player may reveal such emotions or facial expression less extremely, but very reliability. But by the time when you see this, you should start playing in a much better form.

The indicators mentioned above are but a sampling of the things you can account for to know a quick feeling of a rival's basic level of play. But there are also other indicators which are consistent, simple and easy to figure.

A short example: Lately before writing this essay, I was playing in $40-$80 game when a player I have never seen any time before sat down at the poker tables. He appeared somewhat aggressive and won about $800 or $900 early on. A known player leaned over and asked me, "Isn't that man supposed to be some expert on hold'em? I think I saw him giving some talk in L.A. at the poker seminar." I said. "I don't know. Even I have never seen him before."

At the next hour, as the unknown player lost some few hands, he revealed maximum frustration and rage of being drawn out on. It was also clear that he was playing too loose and defending his blinds with nearly anything, then staying with the hands too determined in the face of clear signs that he was beaten. I took a note to bet for value a little more freely against this player than I was against better players. In the next hour, he was down about $2000 and his play had worsened noticeably. In a short while he got up with anger and moved to a $20-$40 game. Even today I don't know who the person was or if he had actually given some talk on hold'em in L.A. But I knew that he was not expert and it didn't take any long time to consider that and play accordingly.

Technical Points


Remember that many of the errors discussed in this section involve the failure to fold. Even though it appears that many players do not want to believe it, folding when others would not is a success to win at the poker table. However, it does take much more than this to win, particularly as you move up the limits, if you habitually make the "call when you should fold" mistake, which fairly defines the average player, your outcome would also be not better than the average. After reading this topic, online poker players who play too many hands or incorrectly call raises cold will be short on justification for their actions. As they will know better, their misplays will be accredited only to tilt. That is the separate subject of another section.

One of the most interesting aspects of poker are tells. However it is difficult to exemplify logically that a major part of one's profit obtains from anything other than basically correct play with suitable situational adjustments and reading hands, thoughts and feelings. I know that some will argue with my calculations in this essay on tell detectability. That's okay; it was given not as the last token on this topic but to enhance thought and explanation.

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