Specific Poker Reads Can Be Great, But Context Is As Well
There are two main ways that we can gain information about our opponents. The first is to watch what they do in a specific hand or over a few hands. This can be very useful of course and in observing this we can look to put them on a range of hands as best we can.
The second source is to look at their playing tendencies in general and look to draw conclusions based upon that. If we can get good at this, and given that most players play fairly consistently, this can give us a huge amount of knowledge about the player. This is in fact what accumulating poker statistics are for.
This information is or at least can be pretty specific depending on what we are looking at. The wrong way to use this info is to just look to draw some basic and broad conclusions about players, such as a tight aggressive or a loose passive or whatever.
These broad categories can be useful as far as teaching the basics of the game to players new to all of this, where you can prescribe some basic strategies to keep in mind when you play a certain player type.
To get the most potential out of this information though we need to be looking at not what opponents may have in a given hand, but the mean based upon what they generally do in certain spots.
While this may seem to be a pretty esoteric concept and perhaps not one that we should be teaching less experienced and skilled players, and indeed it can get pretty involved at the higher levels, it’s not something that is all that difficult to grasp if we can explain it properly.
The Concept Of The Average Hand
If we know that an opponent is, for instance, betting a certain amount of the time at a certain point in the hand, then we can deduce the average hand strength that they are betting, which will be very helpful in deciding what to do.
Now it will take some thought to be able to do this, and it’s something that you can definitely improve on as you gain more experience with it, but it’s also something that we can introduce fairly new players to as well. While they won’t have a high level grasp of it to be sure, even a lower level understanding beats no understanding at all.
So to give you an idea of how this works, if we are playing an opponent who bets 100% of the time when checked to on the flop, then we know what average hand he plays here, which is a random hand in fact. If he bets 33% in a spot then we know he has a pair or better, and the average hand from this would depend on how tight he or she was pre flop, but it’s at least second pair.
It’s not even that important to figure out exactly what this average hand is, as the more important thing here is to look to take this range into consideration and look to play the upper two thirds of it as a general rule.
This Isn’t Really That Complicated, To Start Anyway
Newer players aren’t going to have all that good of an idea what two thirds of a given range may be, but the important thing is to give them the concepts here and let them learn and develop their skills where working with average hands are concerned. The concept itself isn’t something that’s even taught since players really don’t pay much attention to general percentages of actions anyway, so they aren’t going to even be in a position to use math to their advantage this way.
Players generally shy away from doing too much math and while we can certainly use it to our advantage if we are willing to think more mathematically, this doesn’t require much math or statistics at all to have it help us with our game.
The magic ratio so to speak is two thirds and that’s one of the first things I teach my students. Sometimes I will elaborate on why this is the case, but I won’t bother doing that here and you don’t really need to unless you are teaching a more advanced class on this.
I will tell you though that with standard sized betting and pot odds, two thirds is about right for just about everything. It’s actually based upon a half pot sized bet, and you do want to tighten your ranges somewhat for larger ones, but you want to keep things simple here in accomplishing what we are trying to do here, which is to introduce people to this concept, so two thirds is fine and won’t be too far off either way.
A Simple Way To Show This
It might be a little too much to expect that people will just take our word for our two thirds magic ratio, so can use some simple examples to demonstrate it. Let’s say that I bet into you every time on the flop and you were looking to decide how often you should fold.
Now without really thinking about it too much you could say that you should call with the upper half of your range. To some players, that may even seem too loose, but instead, it’s considerably more tight than you should be playing. The reason is that you are giving me half the pots right off the bat and then competing with me for the other half. That seems like a pretty good deal to me.
When you add in the fact that there is money already in the pot as well, I don’t even care what happens with this other half, as I will win at least some of them, and I will just be taking the pot down the other half of the time. I won’t just make a profit by your playing this tight, I’ll make a very nice one.
So you’re going to have to loosen up here, and as it turns out, it will only make sense to fold the bottom third of your hands and play the other two thirds. Now of course I usually won’t be betting that much, although some people do continuation bet all the time, and they can actually get away with it easily, since most people fold to them more than a third of the time, and often much more.
I’ll pick this up in the next session.