Learn how to read hands at Bodog Poker

Hand Reading Will Help You Win at Poker

If there’s one skill that separates the top poker pros from the rest of the pack, it’s hand reading. Some players are incredibly good at narrowing down what cards you might be holding. It’s as if they have a sixth sense, or some kind of ESP powers. But make no mistake: Hand reading is a skill, not a gift from above. Anyone with enough time and energy can learn how to do it, and the better you get at reading your opponent’s hand, the more success you’ll have playing poker at Bodog.

The biggest leap for new players is to stop guessing exactly which two (or four) cards your opponent is holding. It always looks good on TV when someone puts a “soul read” on their hapless victim, but they rarely show you the times when people guess incorrectly. Instead, think about what possible cards your opponent might have, based on the actions that have taken place. Put them on a range of hands. Then use your powers of deduction to narrow that range as you navigate the streets from pre-flop to the river.


Hand Reading Is a Process of Elimination

The pre-flop part of hand reading is relatively easy. Poker strategy has grown by leaps and bounds over the years; many players have learned to open a certain percentage of hands from each position at the table, using only their best hands in early position, and opening a wider range from late position. As a baseline, you can put your opponents on these starting ranges pre-flop.

For example, if you’re playing 6-max no-limit Hold’em and someone opens from under the gun, they might have the top 15% of NLHE hands: something like pocket Fives or better, Ace-Ten offsuit or better, all suited Aces, King-Queen offsuit, King-Nine suited or better, suited connectors Nine-Eight or better, and one-gap suited connectors Jack-Nine or higher. If you’ve memorized this starting range or something close to it for yourself, it’s easy enough to put your opponent on that range, too. Then, if you’ve noticed that someone opens more often or less often than normal, adjust their range accordingly.

Hand reading gets a bit more complicated post-flop. You’ll need to develop an understanding of how and why players decide to check, bet, raise, call and fold, but the better you get at it, the more accurately you’ll respond to their decisions and narrow their ranges. Remember this simple rule for now: Never add hands back into their range that have already been removed. Each decision they make either leaves things where they are or takes possible hands out of their range. It’s called Bayesian probability. Get familiar with the concept, practice hand reading when you can, and like any physical workout, remember that good form is way more important than heavy volume. Never put more weight on your brain than you can handle.