How to improve your hand reading skill

If a guy raises from the middle position in a cash game at some online poker room know that he only raises with big cards then the mathematics of the situation dictates that he is far more likely to have a big unpaired hand than a premium pair. So AK, AQ, AJ, KQ are his most likely hands and not AA, KK, QQ. But when I play hands like this then I need to have certain things in my favour. Firstly, I need to have a good position, this is crucial and having good position can make an awful lot of hands profitable, in fact, any two cards can be profitable in no-limit hold’em with good position. I would rather have 8-3 with position rather than have A-Q with the bad position.

This statement would surprise an awful lot of novice and intermediate players, no alter that, it would surprise them all that a player would rather have 8-3 than A-Q in ANY situation. But “Flow” theory is really just another name given by me to what is, in essence, watching all of the other players like a hawk. But looking and reacting to the flow of the game is a very good description of what it is that you are trying to do.

For instance, there was a tight player in the blinds and I have been systematically chipping away at him for several hours without getting involved in a major confrontation with him. Suddenly after I have folded, he gets involved in a big pot with another player and suffers an outrageous outdraw on the turn and river in an all in the situation. Suddenly he starts raising almost every hand, something has changed. The flow of the game has been affected by this one player and how they are now playing. I liken this in my own mind to the flow of a river that has been affected by some external source.

I always think that the flow of a game is like the flow of water and you must identify that flow as quickly as possible and be alert to any changes in the “weather” if you know what I mean. When you play this way then your play would look crazy at times to someone who could see your cards and was not aware of what you were doing. It is for this reason that many people get confused by seeing great players on televised tournaments make plays of a similar nature.

Unless you are privy to the real reason why they are doing it and you can’t because you cannot read their minds then you simply cannot comprehend some of the plays that they make. But once you can take this concept on board and know when to execute it then you will be close to reaching the final frontier in no limit Texas hold’em.

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

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