How to Read Betting Patterns in Online Poker

Attractive woman in jacket and hat covering face with poker cards isolated on black background

Reading betting patterns is one of the best strategies for playing poker. Learning how to watch your opponent and their actions can help you work out what hand they might have and what they may be up to. It will also help you improve your gambling skills and become successful in poker.

Taking your seat at the table

Whether you are playing online poker tournaments or having a good time playing simple live poker games online or at a land-based casino, it is vital to familiarize yourself with betting patterns. Recognizing these betting patterns can assist you in making the right decision before you act, which directly affects how you make money in the game.

For beginner players, it can be a little intimidating to watch your opponents at the poker table, especially when you are playing at a land-based casino. However, you will get used to it as time passes. It is a lot easier when you are playing real poker online as no one can see that you are watching them. Also, there will not be as many things to watch such as facial expressions, sweating, nervous hands, etc. In online poker though, it’s important to take note of the positioning and how your opponents bet. Ask yourself, do they check? Do they raise? Do they call?

At most, you will want to focus on three players; one from your right who acts before you and the two on your left which will act after you. Thereafter, you can look at the other players on the table.

How opponents play position

Recognizing how the opponents play in different positions will tell you their range of hands. For instance, a player that calls or folds in an early position is most likely to be a weak player. Whereas aggressive players are always likely to raise in late positions. In order to get a good read on their cards, you will need to call, if you have any medium to strong hands.

Furthermore, you need to ask yourself how experienced your opponents are and at what level do they base their playing decisions. By watching them play a couple of times, you will be able to pick up if they are playing like a beginner or at a more advanced level. Their poker lingo is also something to factor in if you are playing online poker tournaments or live poker.

Observing betting patterns

Professional poker player at table with large stack of chips against a black background

After gathering a general idea of your opponents, you want to make some serious observations on their betting patterns in common betting situations. The observations will not be fully accurate, but they are great to use as a guide when you are playing poker for money.

Look out for the following:

  • What kind of poker hands are your opponents raising with? Are they strong or weak hands? Do they check-raise?
  • How do they play? Do they bluff often? Do they check or call?
  • How do they play certain types of hands; big and small? Do they call and fold?
  • How do they slow play hands? How many hands do they often play?
  • Do they stake high or do they go for small value wagers?

The following sections offer some more useful examples.

Check the number of hands your opponent plays

Watching the number of hands that your opponents are down to play is great. It will tell you what kind of starting hands they might have. Usually, if your opponent plays several hands, they are unlikely to have strong hands each time. It indicates that they are willing to play with more marginal hands. Sometimes, this might go vice versa — a player might play with a few hands while waiting for stronger hands to enter a pot. 

Do they call or raise?

Observe if the player likes to enter the pot by either calling or raising. Usually, if your opponent raises early, it means that you need to be cautious when playing marginal hands, as they might raise and force you out of the pot. As mentioned before, a tight player is likely to call early in the game.

Check/Call

Also dubbed a “blocking bet’, this is when your opponent checks or calls and suddenly wagers a small stake into you, on the turn of a draw. When it gets to this point, chances are that your opponent may have had a weak pair or had the draw on the flop. Their small wager is there to allow them to draw cheaply. It is better to charge them more if this occurs.

Bets on the flop and turn

It is often a sign of weakness if your opponent does not increase their bet size on the turn. Usually, this means they will be having a pair with a weak kicker and it is your chance to raise and win the pot. Some players will not bet on the turn given that they were aggressive before the flop. This betting pattern tells you exactly what kind of hand your opponent has. By not wagering on the turn, it says a lot, and at most, it means that the pot is yours. However, if they do wager on the turn, it shows that they might have a good hand. The size of a player’s bet is also something to consider. Also, check what range of hands the player will bet or raise with.

Showdown hands

If your opponent only shows their hand in the showdown, look at how they played their hand from the start. Were they acting strong with a weak hand or did they slow play with a strong hand? This is some vital information to work with.

How to prevent yourself from revealing your betting patterns

As you may have seen, there are many ways that players can reveal their betting patterns, but how do you prevent yourself from doing so?

The first thing you need to do to avoid revealing your betting patterns is to use the same amount of time for all your betting decisions. That way, the other players will not be able to tell if you are struggling to make a decision or not. However, you do not want to take extremely long to make one, and you do not want to jump into making a decision as soon as possible. Other players will not be able to time you if you take the same amount of time to bet, raise, or fold.

Your second option, which might be a little obvious, is to vary your patterns for betting. Avoid always folding or raising like you do not know what you are doing. Mixing things up will prevent your opponents from reading your patterns. However, this does not mean that you should bet the wrong things just to confuse your opponents.

Betting tips

Young man with two ace cards held up to face

At most, it is a sign of weakness when a player checks. Usually, players will do this when they have a weak hand, and this is where you get to take advantage. However, it is different when your opponent checks and then calls, as that would mean that they have a drawing hand.

Drawing cards – several players often aggressively go after draws, but not as a sign of weakness. However, to have them stay during the fourth street or the river, you will need to make a strong raise. Some opponents may call without the right odds. These are the players to keep as they might win you the pot in the long run.

Continuation wagers – some poker players tend to overuse the continuation bet, using it even though they would have raised pre-flop. It is important to know the hand range for this kind of player, in order to take advantage and win yourself some money. Opponents that slow play their hands excessively, are also likely to raise pre-flop or call the flop.

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