Being a better hand reader

In games like no limit Texas hold’em then hand reading is a very valuable skill. When I say hand reading then I am not just referring to identifying what type of hand you have got or anything as simple as that. I am actually referring to being able to read whether you should value bet, bluff or fold and those decisions be correct. Let us look at an example to show you what I mean. Let us say that you are playing in a tough NL400 full ring game against good experienced players.

You make it 3.5bb in the UTG position with the Ac-Kc and a very good and very aggressive player on the button calls you. Both blinds fold and the effective stack is 150bb. The flop comes Ad-Ks-10h and you c-bet for 6bb and your opponent raises to 24bb and you call. The turn card is the 4s and you check and your opponent makes a huge all in shove into the pot and now the action is on you. Now I know that many players will simply say that the villain is very aggressive here and that you have the top two pair and should call.

They would also view calling and losing as simply being a cooler but in my view this is very poor hand reading. The question is that when villain raises the flop and then shoves the turn is he doing so as a bluff or for value? It is pretty clear here that villain is doing this for value because of your perceived range. Firstly the game is full ring and you raised from UTG. This reduces villains fold equity on a board of A-K-10 substantially. You also used a bet-call line on the flop and called your opponents flop raise.

This now has all of the hallmarks of a hand that is not going to fold to further aggression. So your opponent has seen you raise pre-flop and bet the flop and then call a flop raise. The board also hits the range of an UTG raiser in full ring. The final question is in how good our opponent is. We know that they are aggressive but we also know that they are a tough opponent as well. The way to look at this hand is in what our perceived hand range is. Clearly our opponent is placing us onto a range that has connected with this flop and so any fold equity on their part is very minimal.

A good player would recognise that and so their actions must be for value. The over shove on the turn is purely for value and is expecting to get called by a hand that cannot fold like A-A, K-K, 10-10 or A-10s here. If you call then don’t be surprised to see the actual nuts of Q-J for the nut straight as it is unlikely that your opponent is value raising with weaker hands than the top two pair.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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