What Does Reading Hands Mean?
The most significant tool a poker player can have is the skill to read hands. According to the Fundamental Theorem of Poker, the major mistake in poker is to play your hand differently from the way you play it if you know what your rival had. The more frequently you play your hand perfectly based on what your rival has the less you quit and the more you gain.
Every time you know what your rival has, you would probably not lose because you will play the game correctly. It means that the better you are at reading your rival’s hands, the nearer you would be to playing it correctly, and the nearer you play it correctly, the less you lose and the more you win.
Reading hands is both an art as well as a science. It is an art because you must know your rivals. Before you realize what your rival might have, you would have played with them for a relatively long time, seen how they play their hands against you, and more essentially, observed them play hands in which you are not involved. Even when you do not know their hands, you should not be at ease.
How to Read Hands
You want to find out how your rivals tend to play the variety of hands they might have played. Will a specific rival raise with strong hands in the first position, or will he be slow playing? Will he rise on a draw? How does he play his strong hands from one round of betting to the next round of betting? How frequently does he bluff? The more you know your rival basic habits, the fewer problems you will have reading what he might be having in a particular situation.
Paradoxically, it is not as difficult to read good players as it is to read a bunch of incapable’s. When the play is made by a good player, there would be a prudent reason for it, and you are supposed to find out that reason and put that player on a hand. However, there is no style to the play of a weak player and thus you must make a little guesswork to put him on a hand.
Even so, by playing rigidly against the weak and impulsive players, you will win ultimately. Now or the other, a sensible poker player will beat someone playing by the seat of his pants. The latter may be fortunate for a while, catching the inside straights he draws to, winning two small pairs when you rise with aces on the third street but percentages are forced to chase up with him.
Most of the experts get frustrated when a sucker draws out on them. Whereas it is never fun to lose a pot you were favored to win, you should, however, welcome these beats. Praise to such players for hanging in there to make their hands. Persuade them so that they play even more smoothly. It shouldn’t be long before you have their money.
The more you play against average-to-good-players, the simpler it becomes to read your rivals’ hands because they tend to check, bet, and raise for prudent reasons and with certain uniformity to their play. On the other hand, as your rival gets harder and harder, your skill to read hands commences falling down because hard players conceal their hands and they are sometimes purposely erratic.
They make ploys and confusing plays such as semi-bluffing, raising with the second-best hand, slowplaying right to the end, and then check-raising you. They may even play a hand as it would usually be played, which can sometimes be the most unreliable play of all. In all, they try to do all the kinds of things that we have been referring to in this book.
They are trying as tough to deceive you about what they have as you are trying to find out what they have. And obviously, you are playing your hands equally tough against them, even when you are trying to read their hands.
Reading Hands Depending On Your Rivals’ Play and Exposed Cards
There are two worldwide methods for reading hands in all poker games and one more for open-handed games like seven card stud, razz, and hold’em. Now you can commonly evaluate the meaning of a rival’s check, bet, or raise and in open-handed games, you can see his exposed cards and figure out from them what his entire hand might be.
You can then join the plays he has made throughout the hand with his exposed cards and come to a consideration about his most probable hand. Let’s take a simple problem in reading hands which will this point more clearly. In a seven-card stud, your rivals are decent players:
- Player A
- Player B
- Player C
Player A with a pair of aces showing bets; Player B with a pair of kings showing calls; and Player C with a pair of queens showing calls. There are no raises. You are the last to perform. With your three 7s how you will play? If you combine what you have on board and what your rival has done, you should pretty much guess that you must fold; you have no chance with your three 7s.
The main aspect is that the pair of queens overcalled. Player A may be betting with aces alone. But when Player B calls him, Player B must at least have kings up. Player C knows this as there are decent player. Hence, Player C could not call without having kings up beat.
What would be C’s possible hands? C cannot have aces and queens or kings and queens because there is third ace and a third king out, which means that C cannot have any of the two either. Therefore, he must have three queens or better and while your three 7s may beat the first two hands, they cannot beat C’s three queens or better. And so you fold.
This is a good example of reading hands which to my mortification cost me half a pot. I was playing five-card stud high-low spilt with a substitute on the end. With an ace and an 8 showing, I called the highest raise on third street even though two other players each had a 6 and a 5 showing. With a pair of kings there are also other players in the pot.
When it got down to the last card, I had A, 8, 6, 3 showing. One 6, 5 had folded, but although the strength of my board, the other player remained with a ragged 6, 5, 10, Q showing. Even the pair of kings remained. Now, I was betting and raising expecting the Q, 10 low would come out. But that player read me clearly. He did not take any chance to substitute one of his cards.
I just tried to win the whole pot, the high and low, from the two kings, but the Q, 10 was prudent enough to figure out my hand. The question is: he is representing an 8 low, but could he have an 8 low? The answer would be no, he couldn’t. Why? The reason is he would have called all those raises on third street with three cards to an 8 low when there are other players in the pot who looked as if they had three cards to a 6 low. Hence, he must have another ace in the hole.
He was completely correct. I won the high with my two aces, beating the two kings, but the Q, 10 low gained for his exact reading with the low half of the pot (which I would have won against the two kings with my two aces counting also as a low pair). The player having Q, 10 low contemplated the way I played the hand not at the end but from the starting and he joined my play with the cards showing to arrive at the correct conclusion of what I was holding.
He also determined the order in which I got my upcards. He knew I started with A, 8 and then chased the 6 and the 3. If he didn’t know that – if suppose he had not been sure whether I started with A, 8 or A, 6 – it would have been difficult for him to conclude with such confidence that I had a pair of aces.
In this manner, you use some logic to read hands. In every round, you clarify your rivals’ play and in open-handed games you observe the cards they chase on each round, noticing the cards in which they chase them. You then combine these two pieces of evidence – the plays and the upcards – to take the conclusion of a rival’s most possible hand.
In the previous example of a high-low split hand, the Q, 10 low was about to place me on a specific hand so early. However, it is usually a mistake to place someone on a specific hand early and then come on to your conclusion even if things are not going well. In a seven-card stud, an online poker player who rises on third street with a king showing may have two kings but he may even have small pair in the hole with the king kicker or a three-flush or a J, Q, K, or a number of other hands also.
Drawing a restricted, irrevocable conclusion early can cause a lot of expensive mistakes further, either because you fold with the best hand or because you remain a big underdog. In games such as seven card stud or hold’em or razz, you should put a rival on various hands at the commencement of the play and as the hand continues, you reject some of those hands on the basis of the later play, and on the cards he chases.
Through the procedure of rejection, you must have a good thought of what that rival has (or is drawing to) when the last card is split. For example, in seven card stud, a player commences with a queen of spades, then chases the deuce of spades, then the 7 of spades, then the 5 of hearts and he is betting all through the way.
You have a pair of 10s that have not improved. Your rival bets on the end and precisely you can beat only a bluff. Ask yourself will your rival be bluffing? Having something like four-flush and a small pair, he would possibly play the hand accurately the same way – semi-bluffing at the end, considering you didn’t chase any risky cards. And yet if your rival may have a pair of queens or queens up, there is a chance that he has a busted hand. You should likely call his final bet, based on the pot odds you are getting – but realize simultaneously that he may perhaps have been semi-bluffing even when chasing his hand on the last card.
However, suppose your seven-card stud rival commences with that same queen of spades and you start with the same pair of 10s. Once again, your rival is betting all through the way. But now he chases the 7 of diamonds, then the 4 of the clubs, then the jack of hearts. When he bets on the end, you must fold two 10s because when he chases the 7 and 4 but proceeds to bet, you have to reject the flush draw as one of his potential hands.
So he is completely betting on the end for the amount with a pair of queens or a two-pair. However, it may sometimes happen that because your rival’s hands seem slightly riskier on board it is more of a danger to have you beat when your rival bets on the end, since nothing showing describes he might have been semi-bluffing as the hand advances.
It becomes relatively essential of a good thought of what your rival has at the end of a hand. The more exactly you can read hands on the end, it would be more better to decide whether you have, suppose, a 20 percent chance of making your rival beat or a 60 percent chance or whatever. To figure such percentages, you should have the skill to read hands and then further decide how to play your own hand.
Practically, many players do not arrive at the accurate figures like 20 percent or 60 percent, but they at least try to figure whether their rival is having a worse hand, an average hand, a good hand, or a best hand. Suppose your rival bets on the end.
Generally when a player bets, it shows either a bluff a good hand, or the best hand but not an average hand. If the rival has an average hand he will likely check. If you only have an average hand yourself you have to decide what the chances are that the rival is bluffing and whether those chances warrant a call in regards to the pot odds.
If you have a good hand, you must decide whether your rival has a good hand or the best hand. If you think the chances are high he only has a good hand, you could raise. If you think he may have the best hand, you could just call. If you are sure that he has the best hand, you may fold your very good hand, based on the size of the pot.
The two questions you must ask yourself are: What does it look like my rival is representing? Could he have had the hand he was representing and have played it the way he did? Once you make your conclusions about your rival’s hand on the basis of his play poker and his upcards, you decide depending on your own holding and the size of the pot whether to bet, check, call, raise, or whatever.
Notice that in open-handed games one way of reading hands is to commence by determining various possible hands a rival can have and then reject some of the possibilities as the hand advances. A second or, more precisely, corresponding way to read hands is to work backward. It is because of this kind of thing that my high-low split rival did.
If, suppose, the last card in hold’em is a deuce and a rival who was silent from the beginning suddenly bets, you think back of his play in earlier rounds. If there was betting on a flop or on the fourth street that player would have been called with nothing but two 2s in the hole. So he is betting this time either as a bluff or because he has something other than three 2s. However, if everyone checked on the flop and on the fourth street, it is likely the player caught three 2s on the end. At each level of the way you must work forward and backward to zero in on your rival’s most probable hand.