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Gaming Guru

 

Texas Hold'em A to Z: R is for Reading

23 March 2012

In order to be a winning poker player, you will have to improve your reading skills. There are three types of reading you will need to do. You have to be able to read the board, read the players and read some poker books. These will help you get the edge on your opponents.

Reading the Board

Reading the board is a basic skill that you need to master to become a winning player and it is one of the first skills you should learn. It is extremely important that you can determine how your hand stacks up against the other possible hands that your opponents may hold. This is known as reading the board. In Texas Hold'em, your ability to read the board is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Because Texas Hold'em players use the same five community cards, you can easily determine what the best possible hand will be. The best possible hand is called "The Nuts." This is not to say one of the players will always have the Nuts, but by knowing what the best hand is, you can determine the strength of your own hand compared to it. Once you determine the strength of your hand you will have more information to make your decision about how it should be played.

How to Read the Board

Reading the board is not difficult. You look at the community cards and then determine what possible hands can be made if you add two additional cards. The two additional cards are the hole cards held by the players. You start with the highest possible hand and then work your way down to the lowest hand. Certain types of flops will give you a good starting point.

Suited Cards

Any time the board contains suited cards there is the possibility of a flush. Many low limit players will play any two suited cards. (This is a losing strategy that I will discuss another time.) When you see a third suited card appear on the board and there is betting and raising, you know that someone made their flush. Without three suited cards no one can make a flush.

Pair on Board

Whenever there is a pair on the board there is a possibility that someone has 4 of a kind. Although this is not common there is also a strong possibility that someone has made a full house. This is especially true if the board contains mostly high cards.

Double Paired Board

If there are two pairs on the board it doubles the chance of 4 of a kind and greatly increases the chance of a full house.

Once you master reading the board you can learn how to read your opponents.

Reading the Players

Reading your opponents to determine what cards they are holding is part science and part art or psychology. It is not an easy skill to learn. If it was everyone would be doing it and the games would be a lot harder to beat. It takes hard work and patience to develop your reading skill. It also involves paying attention during the game even when you are not actively involved in a hand.

Narrowing the Hands

The first thing you must do is analyze your opponent's action during each betting round of the hand -- whether they call, raise or fold based on the cards that have been dealt face up so far. You need to use logic to help understand why they are making the play based on what you have seen.

You then have to work backwards from the current point and look at all the preceding action that came in the previous betting rounds to help narrow your conclusions as to what they might have. You will have more information as the play unfolds.

Start a Checklist

One of the best ways to start reading other players and narrowing the hands they may have is to make a checklist that you can use in sizing up the players during a game. There are certain questions I ask myself at the table as I watch each player. This has helped me improve my reading skills. If you start doing this during the game, it should help you out as well. When you watch the other players note the following:

How many hands are they playing?

It is very easy to tell if a player is loose or tight just by the number of hands they play. Even if they don't stay in until the end, you should note the number of times that a player will enter the pot.

What cards did they show down at the end?

As I noted earlier each time you show down a hand you are giving away information. You want to know the types of hands your opponents are playing and file this information for later. Do they like to play any suited cards, single aces, suited connectors or big cards?

What position were they in during the hand?

You want to note the position the player was in when they entered the pot. Are they playing weak hands from early position? Loose players will play weak hands out of position and this is something you want to note. If a player is tight and then comes in with a raise from early position, you can determine that they have a big hand.

Did the player raise or call before the flop?

You need to know the types of hands that a player will raise with or call a raise with. Any time players raise you should note their position and the hands they raised with. You should also look at the other players acting after the raise and determine what types of hands they will call a raise with.

Was the player the aggressor or did he check and call?

You should note whether a player is aggressive or passive by the number of times they raise or just limp in preflop. You also want to know the types of hands they may raise with or simply call or check with after the flop. Picking up on their betting patterns is crucial in reading a player.

Did the player slowplay or bluff?

Some players like to slowplay hands or bluff more often. You should note if a player will limp in with pocket aces. Did they flop a big hand and try to trap the other players? Some players like to bluff or semi-bluff at specific times. Make a note any time you catch a player doing this.

When you ask yourself these types of questions after every hand, you will find you player reading skills will improve dramatically.

Reading about Poker

I believe that reading is the fundamental key to learning anything new. Of course, merely reading about a subject will not teach you everything you need to know, but it will give you the basic foundation you need to build on. It has been said that a person who reads about a given subject for 30 minutes a day for a year will know more about that subject than 95% of the population. While there is no way to actually measure this number, I'm sure there is quite a bit of truth to it. Imagine sitting at the poker table and knowing more about the game than most of your opponents. There are hundreds of poker books on the market and there are also thousands of articles about poker on the Internet.

When I was in school there was a sign hanging on the classroom wall that read:

Reading is Fundamental

It was good advice for the classroom and it's excellent advice if you want to play winning poker.

Bill Burton
Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com.

Burton's Texas Holdem book was published in 2002 long before the game became a national phenomenon. The producers of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown used his book during the first season to teach the game to the participants.

He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Burton is an instructor for the Golden Touch Craps dice control seminars teaching players how to gain the advantage in craps. He is an expert at all casino games and can teach players how to play any casino game as well as offering them advice to get the most out of their casino visits.

Bill Burton Websites:

www.billburton.com
www.goldentouchcraps.com

Books by Bill Burton:

> More Books By Bill Burton

Bill Burton
Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com.

Burton's Texas Holdem book was published in 2002 long before the game became a national phenomenon. The producers of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown used his book during the first season to teach the game to the participants.

He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Burton is an instructor for the Golden Touch Craps dice control seminars teaching players how to gain the advantage in craps. He is an expert at all casino games and can teach players how to play any casino game as well as offering them advice to get the most out of their casino visits.

Bill Burton Websites:

www.billburton.com
www.goldentouchcraps.com

Books by Bill Burton:

1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets

> More Books By Bill Burton