How Can I Put an Opponent on a Hand?
In Texas Holdem, Poker math does require you to have a working knowledge of what an opponent’s hand range might be. It also requires you to be well aware of non-mathematical aspects of that specific opponent’s poker tendencies. Here, Juicy Stakes will talk about how to put an opponent on a hand.
The Eternal Mystery
The cards any opponent has in the hole are not visible to the naked eye until the showdown if there is one on the hand. Thugs, the hole cards, all two of them, take on the existential role of an eternal mystery. All of the perfect poker math in the world will not help you enough if you can’t make a reasoned guess as to what your opponent might have.
We say that if you start with a high pair, you have a very good chance to win the hand. However, a pair of queens can be overwhelmed by a pair of kings or aces. This is not a common occurrence but it is also not a rare one. So, you need to have a good idea of what your opponent might be holding to justify her or his bet to stay in the hand.
What if the Flop Looks Like a Flop?
Let’s say the flop comes out as two low cards of one suit and another low card. Let’s say that the only reason an opponent might stay in this hand is if she has suited cards in the hole so that she has a flush draw.
Now poker math may come in handy. But do we know her as the type of poker player who would call to see the flop with two low suited cards? Perhaps she has one high card along with the other suited card.
It should be obvious at this point that we need to develop a very strong understanding of all of our opponents in order to have a good idea of what hand an opponent might have to justify her or his actions.
Which is Better: Online Poker or Land Based Poker?
Now, if we have concluded that we need to learn as much as we can about an opponent in order to make sound decisions, the question arises whether playing poker online or at a land based poker room tends to give us more opportunities to learn as much as we can about our opponents.
How Often Do You Go to a land Based Poker Room?
It is obvious that playing poker at a land based poker room gives you the chance to see how an opponent reacts to various situations. The visual is not available at online poker rooms. But there is also a major downside to playing on land. First, how often will you go to a land based poker room? You can play online every day! Do you live where there is a poker room with easy access? The poker rooms at Juicy Stakes have the easiest access possible!
Second, at a land based poker room, you might not see the same players ever again! So, the only chance you’ll have to observe them will be the hour or more in one session one tine! At an online poker room, you might play against the same player often as he or she might log in from wherever they live at the same time you log in.
Thus, online poker may actually give you more chances to size up an opponent despite lacking the visual element.
In this sense, the old cliché that what you see is whayt you get achieves altogether new meaning!
Are You Tired?
Bone Tired, Boss
That was the immortal line uttered by John Coffey in The Green Mile.
At land based casinos and poker rooms, a lot of poker players and gamers in general play on well past the time that they are bone tired. This causes more losses than you can imagine! At an online casino, you can leave the game at the first sign that you have become too tired to play well. After all, you can come back again the next day or even that same day after a nap!
What Does She Have?
So, now you have to use all of your developed skills of observation and analysis to decide if the bet was a bet from strength or a bluff. Here are a few things to think about on every street even before you go to the mathematical side of the game to decide how best to proceed:
- How experienced is this opponent?
- Is she playing at a higher stakes level for the first time?
- What position was she in when she bet?
- Did she limp in or did she at least make the appearance of betting from strength?
- Do I know anything about her from previous games?
- Is she prone to play close to the vest or is she a bluffer?
The pot odds or equity might tell you to stay in the hand but your familiarity with that player might tell you to fold. On the other hand, the pot odds and equity might tell you to fold but your knowledge of that player’s poker tendencies might tell you to stay in the pot! In other words, as helpful, valuable, and important as poker math is, it cannot replace the great mass of insight and knowledge you can gather simply by paying attention!
Here are a few insights on how to read an opponent in online poker:
- Have they sped up or slowed down their betting time? Both faster and slower betting times may indicate a good hand or a bluff.
- Is the bet either too small or too big for the situation? Some players think that they can confuse opponents by changing their bet size. This often leads to players folding and the “trickster” wins less on the hand than he or she should have won!
- A check raise is often a sign that one player is trolling the other players.
- Any unusual activity by a player may be a tell. Are they writing too much on chat? Is their sequence of bets impossible to figure out? Can they afford to lose this hand or are they desperate for a win to continue playing?
- Are they showing signs of tilt? At an online game, tilt is harder to detect but a tilting opponent will give some signs that they are very unhappy. You might be able to take advantage of this emotionality on the next hand.
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