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In many of our lessons, we've referenced reading opponents.  This breaks down into 3 main categories.  Online tells, which we'll discuss later; patterns of opponents, which we've dealt with in several lessons already; and reading the hands of opponents, which we'll discuss in a little more detail in this lesson.

You can't really look at one component withouth referencing another, and this is particularly the case when taking into account reading hands and patterns.  Patterns are going to tell us a lot about what a particular player may have, and in attempting to read the particular hand, we'll be taking this information and referencing the behavior with the cards on the board.

Of course, any time we look to use a strategy, we also want to have a look at how our opponents may or may not be using this strategy, and to what diligence and effectiveness it is used.  In terms of this lesson though, we'll take a brief look at how our opponents may use this tool, both to be aware of this and also so we may avoid some of the mistakes and neglect, some common, some blatant, some more subtle.

Weak players, of course, don't really pay much attention to what others may have.  They will play their own cards pretty much, as we know.  We want to play against these kinds of players of course.  We still of course want to get as much insight as to what they may be holding, to maximize our advantage against them.  There is a tendency though against these weak opponents for players a little better not to pay near enough attention to reading of hands as they ought to, mostly due to this not being really required to beat these opponents.  Beating them is not near enough though, and we of course want to beat them as badly as we can.  And the extra money from these players is going to be easier to get than from others, so if anything  it's in this situation that we need to be most diligent here, not the least.

Then, there are the players who will not do a whole lot of thinking about what we may have, but keep an eye on the board somewhat, looking for obvious things like flush or straight potential.  We of course need to look for these things as well, and go beyond that of course.  When the board gives away our hand to a certain degree, and we're at a game where players may take heed of this, we need to do a little more to disguise our strength.

In the overwhelming majority of online games, we won't run into opponents doing a whole lot of hand reading,  and what we do have will be pretty much the part time variety, where they think about this stuff once in a while rather than all the time, which is needed.   The top echelon of players do think about this a lot more of course.  However, often times they will fall into the trap of attempting to put a player on a particular hand.   What happens here is that the hand develops, the player has it in his mind that the opponent has this or that, and fails to pick up on other information which would suggest otherwise, or at least show a probability to a certain extent or other that the guess may be a wrong one.  This can get you in all sorts of trouble, thinking you have the opponent beat when this is not the case, and where the possibility of this should have been more obvious if your thinking was more open.

What we want to do instead is put our opponents on a range of hands rather than a single one.  For instance, the flop comes, and we're thinking he could have A, B, or C.  Then we watch the hand develop and consider the lilelihood of each possiblilty as we go, perhaps narrowing the list.  We also want to be open to new possiblilities should the play take an unexpected turn.  For instance, if the betting pattern changes in a way that makes it likely he may have something different than what we presumed, we need to take a step back and reconsider our thinking.

As we're doing this, we want to pay attention to the play throughout the hand, and think of ourselves as a detective trying to piece things together.  Often, we may have to go back to previous rounds, especially when things turn in an unexpected or different direction.  Then we take possibilities and see how they fit the previous play of the opponents.  This involves both what an opponent may have and may not have, and we'll be spending a lot of time here ruling out cartain hands as well based upon prior play.  For instance, we may think an opponent may have a hand which would require he have a high pocket pair, but then we remember that he always raises pre-flop with this hand, and in this case he didn't, so we can pretty much rule this out.

Of course, we're going to want to know what sort of hands are typically played at the table, and if possible, the kind the opponent typically plays.  Fortunately, in most of the games we'll play, there exists enough of a similarity that you can pretty much gauge the table according to general patterns, and to a certain degree, to the patterns of the particular level at this particular site.  So we really don't have to have a whole lot of particular information about this particular player to arrive at our decisions, although the more information we have, the better.

What we're concerned about most though is hands that may beat what we have.  We don't really care that much about things like if a player has top pair bad kicker, or instead second pair.  This makes no difference of course if we have top pair high kicker.  However, watching what others play is going to help us generally in understanding their play, to be used to gain more insight on them for later hands.

When you're not in a hand, which will be most of the time, this is not the time to stop paying attention.  In fact, all sorts of good information can be gained when you're just observing.  Make some guesses as to what the players may have.  Watch and see what they actually did have when they show their cards.  This is not only good for understanding the particular players and game that you're involved with presently, it will develop excellent habits, as well as develop your skill in reading hands.  There is no easy rule of thumb here unfortunately.  Getting good at this involves work and lots of practice.  Unless you work and practice at this though, you won't achieve proficiency at this, and will be missing out on a lot of potential profits.
Poker Tips 6
Poker Instruction 6
Reading Opponents' Hands
Poker Lesson 34