Capacity to Read Opponent Hand

In a Hold'Em Championship, T.J. Cloutier described the ability to read opponents' as "The most valuable skill in high stakes poker... " And certainly in no-limit poker (ring or tournament) the ability to read opponents is crucial, as a mistake, rather than cost you one or two bets of fixed size (as in Fixed-Limit Poker), may incur a great loss of money or even your elimination from the tournament.

In the same line of thought, David Apostolico, in his philosophical book Tournament Poker and The Art of War, says that it is so important to control your own game as to know the game of your opponents, the two are related, and to a large extent, are dependent. Apostolico says that if you manage to get the two objectives, you will have a tremendous advantage over other players, since you can exploit their tendencies, fears, beliefs and weaknesses.

"Read" the style of rivals is not a simple task, even more difficult in multi table tournaments, where you will face a huge amount of different players. It is, however, a skill to be learned and developed, and that improves with practice, experience, dedication and study.

In tournaments, despite the steady stream of players around the tables, it is important to address situations with calmness, prudence and patience. Especially at the beginning of the competition, you must dodge the kamikaze attacks of the players (who seek the opponent all-in to double up quickly or be removed) to engage in analysis of the opponents. Playing blinds can cause irreparable error, so the study of the style of the rivals should be a priority. The first two rounds (orbits) the dealer must serve for an initial basic categorization. It is important that you focus your attention, if not all rivals (which can be very complicated for beginners), then in the immediate (both seated to your left and the two placed on your right), as they will be the ones that will have more influence on your game (especially in relation to the blinds). Take notes of the different manifestations of the opponents during the game (your starting hands, the use of advantages, betting patterns, variations, etc...) Is the best choice for good reading.

As you gain experience in conducting this research exercise, you can see that many players present similar characteristics and which will correspond to a greater or lesser degree to the standard profiles. This will facilitate sorting and enables you to streamline decision-making in scenarios already known. However, you should always be alert to any change in strategy on the other players, since a good deception could cause you great loss. Keep in mind that, as a rule, the players know that you are "reading" them and try to take advantage of that circumstance.

Reading the play of opponents can be an extremely powerful weapon. However, you should take into consideration their "double edged". The knowledge of the game from an opponent does not guarantee victory. Too much trust in this sense can lead to your quick elimination. To take advantage of reading, you should be prudent and disciplined. You will find the right time or the situation more favorable for the attack. Do not force the action. Remember, never too late to fold. In 1982, Jack Strauss won the WSOP after running a single chip, his miraculous recovery popularized a great line: "All you need is a chip and a chair."

Reading the play in live games takes on a different, much more complex and richer dimension than in the online poker as behaviors become more "physical" on players. There is much literature concerning the analysis of human reactions in poker games. However, it is a topic we leave for another time.




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