View Full Version : Reading Opponents

Steven Punk
03-04-2004, 11:59 AM
Tired of lurking I figured it time to post.

My ring game is stronger than tourney and knwoing your opponent is important in ring but IMO it's way more important in tournies. For example in ring if I call a pre-flop raise with a pair of jacks because I know my opponent will raise from his position with a pair of 9s or better I have probably made a correct call and if I run into a better hand I lose X Bigbets but in NL tourney you are gone. Further there is more to read because players change starting hands based on limits, table, and stacks......making reads less likely to be correct or at the very least longer to feel confident on the read under the current variables.

Now when I play ring I have specific questions I want to answer about my opponents, like starting hands for example. How many and what are the questions I need to add to the list for tournies as compared to ring?

03-04-2004, 01:20 PM
Hi Steven,

Rather than trying to guess specific starting hands, I try to assess a player's basic style -- loose-tight, passive-aggressive -- by position, pre- and post-flop. I see these as dynamic rather than fixed, because players change styles according to the situation, their moods, etc. I focus on how this player is playing right now, rather than how he "usually" plays.

I think in terms of Phil Hellmuth's animal types (from Play Poker Like the Pros), simply because they're very memorable for me at the table. They are:

Mouse -- tight-passive (rock)
Elephant -- loose-passive (calling station)
Jackal -- loose-aggressive (maniac)
Lion -- tight-aggressive (stone killer)

Pre-flop, I'm looking at how many hands this opponent gets into (tight-loose), whether he bets/raises or checks/calls (aggressive-passive), and from what positions. I look for actions which are out of character -- e.g.: an Elephant raises from the SB, a Jackal limps UTG -- as these will often signal big hands.

Post-flop, I'm looking at the same things, but I do not assume that a player will have the same style pre- and post-flop. There are players who are tight pre-flop, but will not lay down a hand post-flop. There are players who see a lot of flops but muck if they haven't hit. The same distinctions apply for aggression or passivity.

Again, I'm looking for actions which are out of character, as these often signal a big hand. If a post-flop Lion smooth calls, I'm asking myself if I can beat a set, two pair, or a big draw. If a post-flop Mouse bets out, he's hit a monster.

It sounds simplistic, and perhaps it is, but it's plenty enough for me to try to remember in the heat of the game.


Steven Punk
03-04-2004, 01:48 PM

Thanks for the reply. The generalization helps somewhat but I'm looking more specific. Let's say you are in BB with Q-Q and and LP comes all-in and a call would put you all-in. Now if I believe this player would only go all-in with A-K, A-A, and K-K this is an easy fold but if I saw him do this with 8-8 and K-Q suited odds are that I have the better hand and I would weigh Risk vs Reward as to whether the +EV warrants a call.

The math is simple the read is where the skill is at. I know in ring the more specifically right you can be putting someone on a hand the more profitable you are. Now Chris you have raised another question; Do the tourney vets out there feel that trying to get as specific a read as possible is a waiste of time and just generalities work? /images/graemlins/confused.gif

03-04-2004, 02:18 PM
Hi Steven,

In SNG play, I'll face so many opponents over the course of a week or a month (over 1100 in February alone) that I just don't think it's practical to try to assess each individual player's precise starting hand requirements, and especially not when they're so dynamic and situational.

I can't see myself ever being able to say: "Okay, given 100/200 blinds, with 8 players left where top 4 pay, at a $109 buy-in, with a 4500 stack, on the button, against my 4300 in the BB and the SB's 1900, this player's 3xBB open-raise means either AA, KK, or AKs."

No one (that I play with) who is that predictable.

So I look at generalities.

E.g.#1: This player is a Jackal pre-flop, and likes to steal blinds anytime it's folded to him on the button. He could have almost any two cards here. But he's a Lion post-flop; he doesn't stay in a hand unless he has the goods and he plays them well. I have AJs. I may have the better starting hand, but even a pre-flop Jackal has a real hand sometimes. So I'll call pre-flop, bet out on any A- or J-high flop, and tread lightly if raised.

E.g.#2: This player is a Mouse pre-flop, and almost never steals the blinds. Even with medium pairs, he usually just limp-calls from the button. This time, he raised. I have to read him for a big pair, or a very strong Axs. My AJs is probably an underdog, and may well be dominated, so I'm going to muck it pre-flop.

E.g.#3: This player was a Mouse for the first four levels, but in this round he's opened up his game a bit. I've seen him raise, get called, and take a pot when his 98s hit for two pair. He also raised, and mucked to a big reraise, two hands ago. So I'm thinking that right now he's a Jackal or a Lion. Either way, he plays well post-flop, and AJs is a speculative hand. I should call, I think, but I'm going to tread very lightly unless I hit for two pair or a pair-plus-four on the flop, because I don't want to die on AJs....

To me, this is more than enough complexity (specificity) to try to balance in the heat of a game. I'm sure there are players who can read with a lot more specificity than I can -- T.J. Cloutier comes to mind -- but I have too many mental vectors going in the heat of a game to try to nail this specific player to a specific hand.

I hope this helps.