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Poker Strategy | Holdem Poker Strategy

Seven Tips to Using Player Observation to Your Advantage

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There are seven things you should be looking for from your opponents when you sit down at a poker table. What do you do once you have acquired this information though? The following are seven tips to help you take advantage of the knowledge you have gained on your opponents.

#1 - Hand Selection observation – this helps you determine whether a player is loose, solid, or a rock. This will help you figure out what to do when you are playing a hand against this player. To help you determine what type of player an opponent is, ask yourself the following questions after having watched them play for a little while: 1) How often do they voluntarily enter the pot? 2) What types of hands did they show? 3) What position did they play these hands from? Knowing the answers to those three questions should be enough to label a player as loose, solid, or rockish. Now that you know this, you should have a general idea of how to proceed against them. Much of what you need to do will depend on the other six things you study, but it's important to know a player’s general tendencies when looking at the other factors.

#2 - Aggression – The more often a player is raising and re-raising, the less credit you should give them for having a hand. The less often a player is raising, the more credit you should give their aggression. Adjust your play and the hands you play accordingly based upon this. Against a player who is over aggressive, you should be more liberal in the hands that you call raises with and re-raise with. The opposite is true for a player that seldom raises. In these instances, you need to be more selective.

#3 – Calling tendencies – If a player frequently folds and is all of a sudden calling against you, it should be a cause for concern. If, however, a player is a frequent caller, this should factor into your decision when figuring out when and how much to bet. There is a reason for the old adage “never bluff a calling station” but by the same token these are the exact kind of players that you want to value bet with your more marginal hands that you normally might just check with.

#4 - Reaction to opponents bets/raises. If a player folds often when they face bets and raises, then you should do just that when you are in a hand against them. On the other hand, if a player frequently raises bets or bets, you should be looking for spots to trap them in and should also be more willing to risk chips in marginal situations (i.e. top pair/weak kicker).

#5 – Pre-flop betting patterns. If you are able to determine if there is a difference in how much they bet, then use this information to your advantage. The most common type of thing you will see is an over bet pre-flop when a player has a good hand that is vulnerable like pocket tens, jacks, or a big ace. In these instances, you should be more likely to call their raises in position because you will be able to often take the pot from them post-flop. Another common occurrence is to see an over bet with a big hand like kings or queens from early position in an effort to reduce the potential number of callers. If your stack is deep enough, this is a perfect time to call because of the implied value that you have.

#6 - Post-flop betting patterns. Again the key is to figure out what the patterns are and take advantage of them. Some of the most common patterns you will see are small bets when a person has a small piece or draw and wants to prevent their opponent from betting them out of the hand. If this is the case, raise liberally. If they happen to come over the top of you, it probably means they were looking to induce a raise. Make note of it and fold your hand. Another common pattern is an over bet is when they are trying to protect a vulnerable hand like bottom two pair or top pair. If you've flopped a bigger hand you can usually trap them.

#7 - Blind defense. If you have seen the big blind fold to a raise five times in a row, you should attempt to steal their blinds as often as possible. If they call often but check/fold on the flop if it misses them, you should still be raising as often as possible (even more so than the player who just folds pre-flop because they are giving you additional value for your steal with their pre-flop call). If your opponent over defends their big blind, you'll have to be more selective when you do raise and will need to be willing to be very aggressive (i.e. putting in a second raise) if you are going to raise their blind.

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