Beat Your Friends at Poker – How to Read Their Hands

Beat Your Friends at Poker – How to Read Their Hands

In poker, having a good hand is only half the battle. Because you’re competing against other players, you’ll also need to be wary of your opponents. No matter how good your hand is, there’s usually always a possibility that one of your opponents could have a better one. You won’t be able to see your opponents’ cards, but you can make assumptions about them. The best poker players aren’t just good at playing their hand. They’re also able to read their opponents. 

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Knowing your opponent’s hand puts you at a major advantage, letting you know whether you should fold, raise or call. It’s unlikely that you can ever be certain of their cards, but good players are able to read and judge the ranges of their opponents. You don’t need to be a mind reader. You just need some experience in the game and an understanding of their strategy. It also helps if you’re able to read their body language or facial expressions. 

Is it Possible to Read Hands?

Hand reading, not to be confused with palm reading, is the act of reading your opponent’s hand in poker. It’s a crucial skill when playing at high levels, as your decision should always be based on your opponent as well as your own hand. Naturally, you won’t ever know for certain which cards your opponent has (unless you cheat). However, you can use the power of deduction to make an educated guess.

When you read hands, you shouldn’t be trying to predict the exact cards your opponent has. Instead, you should be trying to deduce the range of possible hands. This way, you’re more likely to have a good idea of what hands your opponent has, rather than focusing on one particular hand. It gives you more potential options to think about.

How to Read Hands

You normally make hand reads based on the actions of your opponent. Before an action, it’s more or less impossible to work out a range, as there are over one thousand combinations of possible hole cards. After the pre-flop betting round, you can start to slowly build a picture, and the longer the game goes on, the more information you’ll have to build your range. 

Each time your opponent makes an action, whether it’s a call or a raise, you should be asking yourself what ranges would make sense. Think about the possible cards they could have and the cards they most likely don’t have. 

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By the time you get to the river, you’ll have narrowed down your opponent’s potential cards to around 50 different combinations. This is still a lot, but it gives you a much clearer picture of your opponent and their chances. The information could easily be the difference between making the right decision and making the wrong one.

Making the Most of Tells

As well as player actions on the poker table, you can also tell a lot about their cards from poker tells. A tell is an unconscious movement by a player that suggests how they’re thinking. It could be a small smile, a grimace, or simply moving their leg in a certain way. Most people give off a lot of information unknowingly through their body language and facial expressions

While tells won’t necessarily give away as much solid information as the actions of your opponent, you can use them together to build a better picture of their hand. Watching and observing each opponent during the game is key, and you can slowly build up a profile of your opponents over time. 

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