I’m working to get better at this. I believe one of the best skills at the poker table is to be able to read what your opponents are holding. The trick is to pay attention and remember everything that has happened in a hand. I often fail miserably at this, but it’s a work in progress.
Here’s why I’m working at it:
When we first learn to play poker, we are intently focused on the cards we are holding. Then it starts to dawn on us that we should actually put much of our focus on what cards our opponents are holding. Sometimes though, we can put way too much stock in what we think is our opponents exact holdings. You will hear players often saying things like ” I put him on Ace-Queen pre-flop”.
But you really shouldn’t get married to the idea that you opponent has a specific hand. Don’t put them on exactly Ace-Queen. Instead consider all the possible hands they likely have, and rule out hands they are unlikely to be holding, given the action that has taken place. This is putting them on a range of hands.
After the cards are dealt, they could of course have any 2 cards. But the moment a player takes his first action, you can immediately narrow down the range of possibilities. If they limp in, it is highly unlikely they have a premium hand (but be aware of certain players who will often trap this way). If they put in a raise, they likely do have a premium hand or a middling pair, or a hand with good post flop play-ability (like suited connectors).
Work to consider ALL the possible hands your opponent is likely to have given their action, their position at the table, and the action that happened before they act. Continue to hold this image. On every street and with almost every action that is taken, you can then shrink down your opponents range of likely hands.
You can never know for sure, exactly what they are holding, but by paying attention and working at it, often by the turn or river, you will be able to narrow your opponents holdings down to only a few likely hands. In a tricky spot, perhaps facing a big bet on the river, you will then be able to make more confident and profitable decisions.
Here’s To A Life Of Fun & Games,