How To Read Your Opponent

Probably the most important thing to look for when playing poker is reading your opponent. In a live poker game, this is generally a little easier as facial expression, body language, mannerisms, table talk, and other physical tells can be key indicators of your opponents hand strength. However, playing online poker you don’t have that same luxury, so what do you do?

One of the most important online poker tells is your opponent’s betting patterns. This encompasses several things including pre-flop and post-flop betting, whether they have a monster or drawing hand or may be bluffing. If you can pick up on any kind of pattern in your opponent may show in his/her betting, you have just gained a huge advantage.

For instance, after about 40 hands of play you note that an opponent has only seen the flop 5 times. Each time he raised pre-flop, and went to showdown 4 times to win the hand. This indicates to you that this player is a pretty tight player that only plays premium hands. If he is raising and you have a non-premium hand you best be folding.

The same thing can be said for a player that consistently bets a pretty good amount when he has premium starting hands pre-flop but raises the minimum when he has a weak hand. His large bet is often used to build a bigger pot with what he/she thinks is the best hand, but their smaller bets are used to try and steal the blinds in hopes of winning more money.

With this in mind, if you know your opponent’s small bets are always made with weak hands then you can use this information to your advantage and take pots away from them that you had no right to win, by raising their bets or taking the pot away from them on later streets. Just make sure they are not adjusting and making the same play to try and trap you.

Paying attention to the action even after you are out of the hand will also lead you to some information that may be useful. For example, after watching the table for a while and one player in particular, you note that he always plays anything with an Ace. This can be crucial information when making your decision to bet/raise post flop.

To give an example to demonstrate this point, usually A-x-x flops can be good ones to continuation bet when you’ve missed since it’s difficult for your opponent to continue in the hand unless they have an Ace, but knowing this player plays raggy Aces, then there are a lot more hands that hit this flop.

Quite often it is too easy to pick up on your opponent’s betting patterns when paying attention at a table. Here are the three most important things you should look for when trying to get an online tell on your opponents.

1. Pre-flop raising in relation to position. Quite often a pre-flop raise from someone on the button can be indicative of an attempted steal, whereas someone in early position who raises 3x the big blind can be indicative of a very strong hand.

2. Post flop bets. So what does your opponent do after the flop? A player who consistently bets a similar amount post flop when they have a hand or the player that simply is a calling station is very useful information to know about an opponent that will assist your decision making when it comes time for you to act.

3. Post flop bets after a pre-flop raise. Often when you see someone raise pre-flop then check on the flop it is generally an indicator that they’ve missed the flop. However, there is the chance they have some showdown value and will check hoping for a cheap showdown. Again, this can be a very useful to know.

Now with that being said, it can be very easy for YOU to fall into the same situation, and there will be observant players looking at your betting to gain that edge against you. Here’s where mixing up your betting patterns comes into play. Raising pre-flop then check raising post-flop, or raising small pre-flop on the button even when you have a monster hand since you raised the same amount with your blind steal attempts can keep you from falling into a pattern.

Also, pay attention to the action when hands get to showdown, so you can know what hands your opponents are playing. Again, this is going to be very useful information. Figuring out your opponents betting patterns is extremely powerful. If you use it you will eventually find yourself getting better reads on people and winning more money as you will be able to more accurately know the hand strength of your opponents!