In According to Doyle, legendary poker champion Doyle Brunson says poker is really just about reading people. The better you see through their facade, the easier it is to beat them, but you don't have to have ESP or be a psychologist to figure out your opponents. Because Texas Hold'em is a community card game, you know a lot about what you opponent may have.
First, you have to know what's on the board. If you can't read what hands might be out against you, practice. Get a deck of cards and turn over five cards. What do you see? If there are no pairs on the board, a player can still hold three-of-a-kind if they have a pair in their hand. If there is a single pair on the board, they can have a full house. Do you see how?
If there are three cards of the same suit, a player can hold a flush if their two down cards are the same suit. If there are three cards to make a straight, they can hold a straight. Is there also the possibility of a straight flush?
If there are two pair on the board, a player is likely to have a full-house, since they only need to match one of those pair's with a card from their hand. Three-of-a-kind on board make the full house very likely. Now think about what your opponent is telling you about their current mood.Poker Tells
The ability to read specific poker tells is an art, and while learning about the mannerisms that your opponent's show absentmindedly or subconsciously can have a positive influence on your win rate at poker, there is something that should come first for all poker players: reading hands. You know what beats what at poker, and you know what can be made from the five-card board, but what is your opponent likely to have played?
For now, just watch for a couple tells. First, is your opponent chewing gum with their jaw moving quickly, bouncing their knee under the table, and playing desperately with their chips? If so, they can't wait to get into the action. They're going to be in a lot of hands, raising and re-raising, and often with border-line hands. Get ready to understand aggression. If you hold a monster, they'll probably bet and raise the hand for you. Let 'em!
The flip-side is the player who is reading, stacking their chips perfectly, watching TV, maybe socializing and chatting up the other players. This person has patience, and may play very few hands. When they do play a hand, show 'em some respect and expect to see some serious quality.How to Put Your Opponent on a Hand
Learning to put your opponent on a specific hand is less art and more memory. It you are the one talking every hand and watching ESPN replays endlessly into the evening, you're missing a chance to learn the most important thing about your opponents: what they play. This skill works in every poker variety from seven-card stud to Razz, but you can really narrow down your opponents to specific hands in Texas Hold'em. The rules apply to limit and no-limit.Calling Range
Knowing your opponents calling range can be your most important tool at poker. To begin, start with whether your opponents are tight players or just there to have fun. Forget what people say about their play, because it's perfectly alright to lie at the poker table, just count how many hands each player gets into action per round. If they play just one hand, especially if it's when they are in the blind, they are tight. Expect to see only the top hands from this player. Now categorize your players by how many hands per round they play:
- Tight - 1 hand per round: Expect to see them playing only top pairs, Ace-face, and two face card hands, not much more
- Moderate - 2 or 3 hands per round: Expect to see them playing any pair, any face cards, any hand with an ace, and probably J-9 and J-10
- Loose - 4 to 5 hands per hour: Expect to see them playing any pair, any face cards, hands with one face card, any hand with an ace, any two suited cards, any two cards that can make a straight
- Fish - more than 5 hands per round: Expect to be surprised, because this person is there for fun, they are playing virtually everything
This simple range will help you narrow down a player's possible hands. Employing that knowledge takes time. You can't put a loose player on a hand very well, but if you start with these ideas for tight players, you might want to stay out of their way when you don't hold a quality hand - just wait for a better spot to get your money in.
- Tight player raises, expect to see a face-card pair or ace-king.
- Tight player calls a raise, likely to be ace-face suited or a pair of tens, jacks or queens. If they are also aggressive, they should be re-raising with these hands. Why are you in?
- Tight player limps, likely to be small pair, ace-face or ace-suited.
Watch what each player shows at the end of a hand. What did that tight player raise with? What did they call - limp, or re-raise with? The more you watch and memorize, the more likely you will be successful in reading your opponent's Texas Hold'em hands.