Learn how to read your opponents and how to analyze the game
 

By TodoNada.com

How to begin analyzing
Analysing the pre-flop
Analysing the flop
Your play on the river
Some situations to discuss
Aggression on the flop
Gathering information
Using a bluff
What are the questions you need to answer about your opponent?
Conclusion

How to begin analyzing

The novice’s approach to poker is too often - “If things go well I win”. But if you also do not want to waste your time and work on yourself, you can at least do a general analysis of the game using a tool like Poker Tracker. By the way the true benefit will come from a more detailed analysis of the played hands. A full analysis is recommended during an active training, with the transition to higher limits, or after major losses. A deep study of your own games should help you identify your mistakes, improve your understanding of the game, and as a result - increase your win rate.

It is better to start your analysis immediately after the session (unless you are on tilt, then the best thing to do is to calm down). First, begin with the history of the game, (it would be nice to use a replayer, if possible) and look at all the hands you have participated in. Generally speaking, the analysis after the game is similar to the analysis during the game. You look at your cards, evaluate the chances and make an optimal decision, and then compare it with the reality. There are programs that can help you to make a decision. This is exactly the difference - you’ll have more time and at the same time you’ll have electronic helpers.

Analysing the pre-flop

Of course, you should start with the pre-flop. The beginners, who use tables of pre-flop hands can skip this round. In case you are trying to modify the tables according to the opponents or you were in a situation of attack / protection the blinds, you should see whether the moves are correct. If you doubt, then take the tool and check.

For the Limit Hold’em the right tool should be Poker Stove or Poker Studio. Enter your cards, the expected range of your opponents’ hands and calculate you chances. The probability of winning should be greater than the pot odds (although this is not a perfect evaluation, but it is very helpful). For No Limit Hold’em you should better consider your chances to improve your hand on the flop, as well as the playing style, and the chip stacks of your opponents. For the latter stages of the SnG tournament, where the only decision is made on the flop (to push or fold), you should use tools like SnG Wizard or SnG Power Tools.

Analysing the flop

On the flop and turn you can already see your chances for improving your hand. The Limit Hold’em is a game of chance, so we calculate the discounted potential opportunities. We are trying to narrow the range of the hands of our opponents by analyzing their actions. On the flop it is still very difficult, but to the turn situation should become clearer. Based on the possible cards of your opponent, you should estimate the probability of what is now ahead, add the probability of improving your hand, and then make a decision. In no-limit poker is almost the same, but the chances of improvement can not be compared with the current pot, but with the remaining stack of chips of your opponent (of course, if you are sure that you are going to steal that stack). Generally, of course, the analysis of no limit games is much more difficult and subjective.

Your play on the river

One of the biggest mistakes is to fold with a strong hand on the river. As Dan Harrington wrote, in any situation, the chance that the opponent is bluffing is not lower than 10%. Even with a mediocre hand, you should respond when the pot odds are higher than 1 to 10. Here one can recall the “value bet”, when you bet against a weak player with not very strong hand – do you think you make this move often enough? On the other hand, make sure you do not respond the bet only to see the hand of your opponent and to understand that you are far behind - it is quite devastating and useless.
 
Once again - the analysis of the whole game repeats the process of thinking during the game, but now you have the ability to make calculations, more time for evaluations, and you can use different poker calculators. However, between postfactum analysis and the analysis during the game, there is a significant psychological difference. A common mistake here is the result orienting point. When you analyze, you already know the result of the game, you remember the cards of the opponent and the revealed cards on the table. Just few players are able to forget this information and analyse how they would have done during the game, in conditions of uncertainty. The only thing you need to remember is your cards, the community cards and the way your opponents play.

Some situations to discuss

A very tight-passive player enters the game as an early position limper, you raise in middle position with A – Q, except the limper, the Big blinder answer as well and he is a very loose player. The flop reveals a rainbow: 4 -7 –J, before you there were two checks and your opponents answer your bet. The turn reveals an eight, the blinder unexpectedly places a bet, and the second player answers. You know that the blinder tends to bluff since he likes risk and you decide to reply. The river reveals an ace, the blinder places a bet, the tighter folds, you bet and actually you win the pot, the blinder did not have even a pair. Yes, you won, and yes, you recognized the bluff of the blinder, and everything seems to be pretty normal, but did you play right?

Up to the turn there are no special questions, the raise during the pre –flop and the bet on the flop are totally right – you believe that you have a better hand and you place bets as a reaction to your opponents’ passiveness. On the turn you have decided that the blinder is bluffing and you answered. But were you 100 % sure that the blinder was bluffing? According to the theory of probability in about 30 % of the cases he’d have at least a pair.

And what are you going to say about the second player? This is a tight – passive player and his call on the turn shows that he has either a pair of Jacks, or a mediocre hand (he doesn’t seem to have a draw). It turns out that you are already behind, it is possible that you even draw dead. You have maximum six outs, besides, you can forget about the one of them (the second player’s hand probably is: A – J, 8 – 8, 10 - 10). Which means that with your six outs even in the best case, your chances of improvement are 1 to 7, and the pot odds are 1 to 6.5. If you add the probability that you are playing against trips, you should absolutely fold. On the river the blinder continued betting. Did he really try to bluff? The fact that the blinder bets against two opponents, besides, there is an Ace among the community cards (and you raised during the pre- flop), should make you think and consider the possibility that it may be a bluff. To tell you the truth, the possibility of bluffing is not very great, but the pot is to big to fold and the semi – bluff is not excluded as well, so you should call. Should you raise? It seems that during the game you did not give blinder’s bluff more than 50 % possibility. Call is an optimal decision since in case of bluffing you won’t get another bet but against a three of kind you may lose one more. As you can see, based on the results, the call on the turn looks right, but the call on the river (instead of a raise) - a mistake, but as a matter of fact, it is the opposite.

When you are analyzing the game, you should forget about the results but you should always remember the information about your opponents. If the situation is very complicated, you can take advantage and use some programs, make the calculations and try as accurate as possible to evaluate your chances. Hopefully, the introspection will enable you to identify your mistakes and you won’t repeat them in the future.

To read your opponent means that you determine your opponents’ cards or the range of his cards based on the algorithm of his bets, the time for making decision and the history. Reading allows you to not only to play your cards well, but also to work actively on the opponent. The extra bonus that you get with a successful reading is the ability to understand what your opponent thinks your cards are.

Aggression on the flop

When your opponent plays aggressively i.e. in 100 percent of the cases places a bet on the flop after he raised on the pre – flop (approximately the same amount compared to the pot), in 50 % or more of the cases his bet is not supported by a good hand.

Let’s see an example. The beginning of HU SNG, there were 15 hands up to now, the stack of your opponent is 1600 and yours is 1400, so he has a little bit more. There wasn’t even a single showdown till the moment and your opponent played very aggressively – he posted bets during the pre –flops and after the flops he placed two third of the pot – this way making you fold. On the other hand, you haven’t played aggressively yet. The blinds are 10/20. You have a Queen and a 4. Here comes the pre – flop and your opponent bets 60, you call. The flop reveals a 4, a Jack and a 2 of different suits: you check and your opponent bets 80. In this situation, having experienced the previous hands and the aggression of your opponent, you should not fold at all. In fact, there are two options: to call or to re- raise to about 250. At the moment you have a pair with a pretty good kicker and there is not reason to believe that your opponent has a Jack since he places a bet anyway (he is aggressive). He may have a pocket pair, but now you may not consider this possibility since it happens very rarely. But even if your opponent has a stronger hand, you have at least 5 outs that can help you to win the hand. You better re – raise to 250 and your opponent will fold.

Gathering information

But what you need to do if the opponent calls or re-raises? His call does not make things clear for you and you should check on the turn in order to understand what his intentions are. In case he re-raises, even if it is a mini-raise, you lose, and you can easily fold (bear in mind that this is the first sich situation in the game and you cannot be sure that your opponent abuses such methods). So, what do you know for sure? Your opponent raised during the pre- flop, then he raised on the flop and he was not scared of big check – raise. All this reveals the strength of his hand. Your goal now should be to reach the showdown as cheap as you can and find out what are the cards he’s playing this way - that will give you very valuable information. Some of the successful HU (Heads Up) SNG players do this all the time – they call the first few hands before the river and this way they gather information. After that, with an image of a weak player and a lot of useful information, they are quickly moving forward, eliminating the difference in chips literally in one hand.

Using a bluff

While the game with weak and predictable players is pretty simple and it is just a number of actions based on simple mathematics and logic, the game with strong and thinking opponents is something much more different. You should really try not be read by your opponents. A good tactics here is to give your opponent wrong information: that you are very fond of bluffing. For example, you make a raise during the pre- flop and your opponent calls, then you bet half of the pot on the flop, then you bet the same amount on the turn, and then, after much heart –searching you place a big bet on the river. Of course, your opponent will expose you and will see that you use a full bluff. But the next time you are dealt a very strong hand, play the same way. Your opponent will pay it.

What are the questions you need to answer about your opponent?

The only way to increase your winning percentage is to make fewer mistakes and at the same time to make your opponent make more mistakes. Remember, you are not playing the game, you are playing your opponent. There are not any common ways to force the opponent to make mistakes. You can just feel it yourself. During the first few hands you need to notice some of his basic features that will help you during the game. The following questions may help you to achieve this goal:

  • With what cards usually your opponent raises? Are they only higher ranking cards, higher pairs, suited connectors or sometimes is just a bluff?
  • Does your opponent like the continuation bet? Does he do that constantly? What does his bet depend on?
  • Does he often folds when you re-raise his continuation bet?
  • Does he often attack on the turn if he made a continuation bet on the flop and you called? If yes, how mush does he bet comparing to the pot?
  • Does your opponent check-raise very often? On which streets? With what cards?
  • Does he often try to fool you like playing check on the river hoping that you are going to bet?
  • Is your opponent ready to go all-in with a top pair? Is he ready to do the same with a flush draw or straight draw?
  • Is he prepared at any cost to go to the river with a flush draw?
     

Conclusion

Once on the basis of this plan you will get a portrait of your opponent, you can better read him. You should always think more about your opponent’s cards, not about yours. At the moment you know the cards of your opponents and your opponents do not know yours, you can be sure that you are the winner since you have a positive expectation.
And never forget that nothing could be more creative in poker than reading your opponents. There is no mathematician who can explain why the best players know the cards of their opponent almost in any situation. They have probably developed some sixth sense, which, however, you can also do but with a long training.

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