Tip 47
Read hand better

To apply this tip, it doesn’t matter whether you are involved in the pot or not.  You can really jump-start your game by closely following the play of hands when you are out of the pot.  Not only will you develop a better handle on your opponents, but also you will learn what sorts of hands tend to win in different situations.

  What is the number one skill that allows the top poker players to be so successful?  Is it their ability to sit patiently waiting for premium cards?  Or is it their great success with timely bluffs?  In reality, the top is their ability to read hands*.   In most cases. This is skill was probably not a God-given gift.  Rather, it is the product of much hard work as they progressed up to the top of the poker food chain.  These top players have an ability to focus whether in or out of a hand on how the pot is played out.  After enough trials, they develop a sense of what sort of hand each player is likely to have.  Simply by

*Read a hand: Make a conclusion about another player’s holdings based on that player’s actions, remarks, betting patterns, etc., and on the constitution of the board with relation to the preceding.

actively  paying attention in the game, you can learn to read the hands of your opponents.
  Here is a checklist of what you should be observing about your opponents while out of a hand:

  • Level of aggression:  

What sorts of hands do your opponents bet, raise, or reraise with?  For example, some players have no problem raising with just a flush draw, whereas others only call even after they have completed the flush.  Also, do your opponents bet after the flop with just ace high, or do they need a pair to fire in a wager?  How often to they bluff?  Do they play much more aggressively when they are in late position?  Do they raise preflop with two suited cards, or do they need a pair or big ace to raise? 

  • How position affects their starting requirements:

Some players play only top-notch hands from early position.  Others disregard the importance of position altogether.  Learn how the play of each of your opponents is influenced by their position by observing how often they enter pots from various positions, as well as seeing what sorts of hands they turn over.

  • Who bluffs, and who doesn’t?

Learning this can help you save some bets on the river when a known non-bluffer bets.  It also prevent you from making an ill-advised laydown against a chronic bluffer.

  • Who are the calling stations?

Observe which players refuse to be bluffed.  Then, you can avoid trying to bet busted hands at them.  However, you should be able to bet with a large number of marginal hands on the river for value against these players.  Once you have identified a calling station, you can bet with hands as weak as second pair on the river, as you will be getting called by any pair or even ace high.

  • How liberally do your opponents defend their blind hands?

Some players automatically call a raise from the big blind position, reasoning that they are already halfway in.  You can expect these players to show down a wide variety of hands.  Others use more discretion, calling only with good hands.

This list can go on and on, as there are a number of things to look for.  If you remember to watch the hand as it plays out, and recreate the betting after you see the hands turned up, you will begin to find patterns in the play of your opponents.  Most hold’em players tend to play the same hands the same way time after time.  Once you have identified some reliable tendencies or patterns, you can develop ways to exploit them for your benefit.