Reading Opponents Article

There's truth to the fact that reading your opponent in poker is one of the most important, if not the most important, part of the game. But what happens when you read your opponent perfectly bet accordingly and still can't get your opponent off his hand?

The answer is simple: you lose a lot of chips.

Here's a real-life situation from a recent home game. The game is limit hold 'em (our home game tries to buck the no-limit trend - call us pioneers!), and we're playing an eight person, single-table tournament. Each player begins with 2,000 tournament chips. At this point in the game, the blinds are 100/200.

With seven players remaining, yours truly sits in the small blind and looks down to see king-jack offsuit. When the action is folded all the way around, I bump it to 400.

The big blind, who is a very conservative, doesn't-say-much type of player, immediately raises to 600. I put him on either ace-king or ace-queen or a pretty decent pair (let's say pocket 9s or higher).

Given the pot odds, however, I decide to call. When the flop comes down nine-six-two, I immediately feel there's a chance I can outplay my opponent and steal this pot. I check, knowing my opponent will make a continuation bet. When he bets, I immediately raise to 400.

This is where I gather the necessary information from my opponent. Every time this player has a hand, he either calls or raises quickly. When his hand is not yet made, he pensively thinks before acting.

So when my opponent goes into the tank, I know he has either ace-king or ace-queen. He decides to call the raise and see the turn. A three - another blank - comes off on the turn. I quickly fire out $400, and again my opponent thinks about it. This is the time I'm convinced that he'll lay down his hand. At this point he has to put me on a pocket pair, maybe even a set. He'll later tell me that he did, indeed, put me on a pocket pair.

Still, he calls.

When the river fires one last blank, I once again bet 400. There was only one fundamental problem at this point. My opponent only had 400 chips left. His way of thinking was that he had come this far with the hand; he might as well "throw away" his final 400 chips. He pushes the chips into the pot and says, "You've got me." Of course, we all know I don't and when I show king high, he scoops the pot.

So where did I make the mistake in this hand? As much as I'd like to say that even I don't know, the truth is the mistake was made when I decided to tussle with this guy after the flop.

Sometimes, amateur players (and even some pros) just can't get away from big hands. And even if they're convinced they're beaten, they'll make a call that puts their tournament life at stake. The ability to recognize these players is what makes a good player great.

So even when you're convinced that you've read your opponent well, understand that reading sometimes goes well beyond knowing what they're holding. Sometimes you have to read your opponent's skill level to gain the upper hand.

Jim Connelly
Author Bio: Jim Connelly is a freelance writer who has been covering a variety of sports for the past decade. He is also an amateur poker player and played in the Main Event of the 2005 World Series of Poker.

Back to Gambling Articles