Poker’s popularity is due to many factors. You can always find a game to match your skill level. Success has more to do with strategy than the cards you are dealt. There is always room for improvement. These reasons plus a hundred more all keep players playing year in and year out. There is a game within the game though that is also quite alluring and that is the ability to follow your opponent’s moves as they start to trend.
Learning how to play against your opponents goes much deeper than just the luck of the cards. It takes time, practice, and a keen eye to develop the skills needed to take the next step in poker. At the end of the day, poker is not about how many winning hands you create. It’s about how you play against each of your opponents. It’s their stack you are after, and you can learn how to bet players without every drawing a good hand. Tracking your opponent’s trends is the only way to do this and be successful. Here are three easy steps to get you started on being able to read everyone at the felt.
What Type of Player are They
Of course, every poker player is different. However, after a few hands, you should be able to put players in a few different boxes to help you not only remember the plays they’ve made but also track the trend they are creating. Are they aggressive players? Passive players? Are they playing loose? Are they inexperienced?
Much of this can be derived from how they wager and what they say. Chatty players are usually very aggressive. Inexperienced players make simple mistakes. Passive players are the easiest to spot as they hem and haw over every decision. Make a mental note from the first hand and try to get a read on what type of player everyone is. Once you’ve done that, everything becomes much easier. For instance, you’re only a few hands in and you’ve determined one player is very green. They’ve done nothing but ask questions, take too much time, and lose. These are the tells of an inexperienced player. So, you adjust your game plan. You never bluff an inexperienced player; you let them lose on their own because that’s what inexperienced players do. One less opponent to worry about.
What Strategy are They Using
Becoming a strong poker player not only takes a lot of time actually playing poker, it takes a lot of time reading up on poker. The best players know all the theories and strategies and can see them being employed against them. This is an obvious advantage. Determining how your opponents are playing is such an advantage, you’ll want to try to figure it out as soon as you can. One of the best ways to do this is to track how your opponents are playing preflop.
Every move your opponent makes before the flop is key for two reasons. One – You’ll be able to note how much they are wagering. Percentage of stack wagers are big in every popular strategy. Some quick math can tell you what percentage of their stack your opponent is wagering. After only a few hands you will be able to see the rhyme and reason to it. Two – It will also help you determine what kind of player they are. Are they a loose and aggressive player? Are they playing it tight? Preflop is the time when everyone has a gameplan. Postflop is when all hell breaks loose. Bone up on your poker strategies and you’ll soon be able to track them in real time.
Tells are More Obvious Than You Think
Hollywood has convinced many players that everyone has a physical tell in their body language that gives away every hand they pick up. Their left eye blinks and they begin talking fast whenever they are holding a pair of kings. They shift in their seat three times before a bluff. On and on. Of course, these types of tells make for good movie characteristics, but they really don’t have anything to do with real poker. Studying your opponent’s every tick and head-scratch is as exhausting as it is silly. Especially when you consider that the most important tells are the ones out in the open and happen on every street. How is your opponent betting and when are they calling? These aren’t cleverly disguised habits, these are the trends you are looking for and the real tells you need to take over their stack.
It’s important to keep it simple when playing poker. Remember, you aren’t playing the cards, you are playing the others at the table. Quickly determining what kind of player they are, what kind of strategy they are using, and how they bet and call will put you onto their game. And that, of course, is when you can start to win bigger pots more often.