After forming a general idea of your opponents, you’ll want to carefully observe their betting patterns in common situations. The things you notice and deduce about them may not be fully accurate, but they’ll be a great guide to use when you’re playing poker for money. Remember that anything can happen in poker, so don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong. It’s unrealistic to win every round and even the pros make mistakes. So pick yourself up, keep with your strategies and move on to the next round.
Whether you’re right or wrong, trying to gauge your opponents’ playing styles will help you in the long run. If you want to read betting patterns (and therefore, their players) well, it’s vital that you develop good observation skills and empathy. The power of observation will help to make you aware of everything going on around you. Developing empathy for situations around you and understanding others’ feelings will lead you to ask yourself, why? This, of course, helps you in determining why players make the decisions that they do.
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, say big and small? Do they call and fold?
- How do they slow-play hands (where they make a weak or passive bet or play while holding a strong hand)? How many hands do they often play? (See next section.)
- Do they stake high, or do they go for small-value wagers?
Here are some more useful examples.
Check the number of hands your opponent plays
Watching how many hands your opponents are down to play is a great tip – it can tell you what kind of starting hands they might have. If your opponent plays several hands, they’re unlikely to have a strong hand every time. It indicates that they’re an aggressive player and willing to play with more marginal hands. Sometimes, it’s the reverse – a player might play only a few hands while waiting for stronger hands to enter a pot.
Maintaining a level of randomness in your betting is essential to prevent players from reading your betting patterns. Try to mix up each round with bluffing, semi-bluffing, raising, checking and folding. When you’re spontaneous, it’s incredibly hard for players to predict what hand you have, therefore making you a tougher opponent.
Do they call or raise?
Observe whether 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. Remember, a tight player is likely to call early in the game. When a player suddenly raises the river after calling the flop and the turn, it’s a sign that they’ve got plans. In this scenario, the other players might feel that because they followed their opponent to the river, they may as well call a final bet – but they often they end up losing. Don’t fall for this trap! Nevertheless, it’s useful to note how an opponent changes gear on the river.
Also dubbed a “blocking bet’’ and considered a classic, this happens 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’s better to charge them more if this occurs. Finding ways to exploit your opponents is how you progress your game.
Bets on the flop and turn
It’s often a sign of weakness if your opponent doesn’t increase their bet size on the turn. Usually, this indicates they have a pair with a weak kicker, which means it’s your chance to raise and win the pot. Some players will not bet on the turn, even though they were aggressive before the flop. This betting pattern tells you exactly what kind of hand your opponent has. When a player doesn’t wager on the turn, that’s usually significant in some way – at best, it will mean 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 definitely something to consider. Also, keep in mind what range of hands that particular player is likely to bet or raise with.
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? Vital information is revealed here that can give you an advantage at the poker table.
On your way to poker mastery
Remember, poker is a game of observation, with betting patterns naturally evolving over time. No matter how good a player is, everyone leaves a trend. It’s also worth remembering that betting patterns will change as you move up in stakes and you should be able to adapt when this happens. Always remain observant while asking yourself, “Why is this person betting this way?”
How to hide your own 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 the same?
The first way you can try to avoid revealing how you bet is to use the same amount of time for all your betting decisions. That way, the other players won’t be able to tell if you’re struggling to make a decision. However, you don’t want to take extremely long to make one, nor do you want to jump into making a snap decision as soon as possible. So, finding a balance is key to making this strategy work. Other players will not be able to glean anything from your action 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 don’t know what you are doing. Mixing things up will prevent your opponents from reading your patterns. However, this doesn’t mean that you should bet the wrong things just to confuse your opponents!
At most, it’s a sign of weakness when a player checks. Players tend to check when they have a weak hand, which indicates an opening for you to take advantage of. However, it’s different when your opponent checks and then calls, as that means that they have a drawing hand (where they have a potentially good hand but it’s missing a certain card they need.)
Here are some betting tips to consider:
Some players often aggressively go after draws, but note that this may not be a sign of weakness. You’ll need to make a strong raise to have them stay during the fourth street or river. 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.
Some poker players tend to overuse the continuation bet – this is when they’ve raised preflop and continue playing aggressively by betting again on the flop. It’s important to know the hand range for this kind of player, to be able to take advantage and hopefully win yourself some money. Opponents who slow-play their hands excessively are also likely to raise pre flop or call the flop.
Retaining a strong image around the table is a great way to gain respect from your opponents. If you’re deemed annoying, players can be more aggressive toward you and attempt to chase you out of the game with big bets. Ensure you understand the basics from casino tipping etiquette to online casino rules – this can go a long way and make your experience more enjoyable.
Play and practice poker at BetMGM
BetMGM is the place to visit if you’re looking to play at the best online poker site. We offer players a wide range of cash games and online poker tournaments, where you can play many varieties including Texas Hold’em poker, Omaha, 7-Card Stud and more. Our live casino also allows you to enjoy the best live dealer action. Of course, if you’re looking for other fun casino games such as online slots, blackjack, roulette and others, then you’re also in luck here at BetMGM. Register to explore our fun world of top casino game titles!