In poker, the key to winning is in your hands. However, it’s also true that you can’t win without understanding how to play against your opponents. In this article we’ll look at the best way to scout your opponents to gain an edge over them.
Scouting your opponents is a major part of the game and if you don’t do it correctly, then you’re likely to make mistakes. When you’re able to see what your opponent has been doing, then you can use their tendencies as a guide to plan your own strategy.
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For example, when you know that your opponent likes to check-raise preflop, and they have a big stack (and you’re not very good at folding), then you might consider calling every time they raise.
You might not think about calling every time your opponent raises in a multi table tournament, but you need to be aware of this tendency, and exploit it. If you’re playing online and you notice that your opponent always calls your 3bet bet, then you should probably fold or call more often.
A common mistake players make is not knowing enough about their opponents, so when you see that one player is raising all the time, or re-raising all the time, you tend to assume he’s bluffing you, or he doesn’t understand the hand range etc. But, if you are not familiar with his style of play, then you could make a huge mistake by calling too much, or folding too little.
When you’re playing live, you can get some information on your opponents from other players around you, who will usually talk about their opponents, especially if they’ve played many times together. This gives you an insight into what kind of players they are. Is one a tight player? Are they a loose player? These types of questions help you understand whether they tend to be aggressive or passive, which is important information when deciding how to approach a particular situation.
The same goes for online. If you’re playing multiple tables at once, then you need to be aware of what the general trends in each table are. For example, if you’re playing 10 tables, and there is a lot of aggression in 9 out of 10 tables, then you should probably play more cautiously in table 10.
If you’re new to poker, then chances are you won’t know the most effective way to approach a certain situation, and you may end up making a bad decision because you didn’t take the time to find out what your opponents do. This is why you need to practice scouting your opponents.
So here are 5 tips for finding out how your opponent plays and using this knowledge to improve your results.
- Check The Blinds – Look at the blind levels. Do they seem fair? Sometimes players will try to hide the fact that they have a weak opening hand, so they raise the blinds high. But if you see that someone raised the blinds really early, then they probably aren’t a strong opener. They might be a tight player who likes to keep the blinds low.
- Watch Their Stacks – How big is their stack? You can tell this by looking at the cards in front of them. Does he have a small stack of $5 chips or does he have a large stack of $100 chips? Usually the size of the stack tells us a lot about how they are going to play. A tight player will have a small stack, because he wants to build a big pot and he doesn’t want to risk losing any money. An aggressive player will have more chips than usual, because he wants to push the action and he believes he has a good chance of winning, even though he might be holding a weak hand.
- Study Their Poker Face – One thing you don’t want to do is look at your opponent while they are betting. While this is a great way to read people in real life, it makes it difficult to read your opponent when you play poker. Instead, try to look at them after they’ve made another bet. You can tell a lot about your opponent based on how they react to the action, and whether they show emotion or remain stoic.
- Watch What They Do With The Cards – If you’re in a multi table tournament, then you can sometimes tell exactly what your opponent is holding by watching what they do with their cards. For example, if you see that they put down two cards faceup, then you can usually guess that they hold a pair.
One thing you shouldn’t do, however, is judge your opponent based on this. For example, if they put down a pair of tens, yet they haven’t shown any emotion, then you should assume they’re bluffing. Or, if they put down three cards face down, you might assume they are trying to disguise a straight draw. Remember, your job is to win the pots, and not to win the psychological battle.
- Don’t Let Them Know You’re Using That Information – When you learn something new, you should never let anyone else know about it. If you start sharing this information with other players, then you increase the likelihood that they will use that information to beat you.
This is why it’s important to watch your opponents and use that information, rather than giving it away. It shows confidence in your play and encourages others to copy it. There are plenty of people who will use this information to beat you, and if you don’t share it with them, then you’ll continue to win.