A while back, my esteemed colleague Todd McGee wrote an excellent piece on methods of gathering information during preflop play. Well, I simply couldn’t resist putting my two cents in on the poker intelligence from. Since he already covered preflop info gathering, I’ll be going into what information to look for in postflop play.
Gathering Post Flop Intel: Live Play
One of the most memorable lines I’ve ever read in a poker book comes from, if I remember correctly, Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book of Poker. To paraphrase:
“When the flop hits, don’t watch the cards. Watch the other players watch the flop.”
His point was, as I understand it, a player’s reaction at the point is visceral and very hard to control. In other words, it’s a gold mine of tells. Eyes can widen for an instant, they can quickly glance away. Pulses quicken and hearts sink. If you can pick up on these things, you can become the most information rich player at the table very quickly. You might even pick up on someone doing the same thing that you’re doing. It’s always useful to identify when a player is as dangerous as you are.
If they’re wearing sunglasses, look at other mannerisms. The best thing that I’ve found to do is to watch people’s hands (the ones made of skin, bone and fingers, not cards.) Ever hear the saying “people talk with their hands?” It’s true. It varies from person to person, but plenty of people don’t pay attention to their hands in play, and those hands have certain behaviors corresponding to how confident they are. Since they’re so talkative, I’d advise listening to what people’s hands have to say.
Gathering Postflop Intel: Online Play
The bad news is, none of these techniques will work online. Obviously, because it’s online, as in not in person. The good news is these are just the start of how you can figure people out from postflop data. My own observation on postflop play, or indeed even preflop, is that it is incredibly rare, maybe even nonexistent outside of top level professionals, for a player to truly “change gears.” For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, changing gears refers to playing in different ways to respond to different situations, such as the ratio of aggressive to passive players, damage or enhancement to your table image, or even something as simple as the blinds increasing to a certain point.
Now, many players can make adjustments to their play in response to such stimulus. But as far as I’ve seen, those adjustments still follow a pattern that remains true and consistent to their overall style and preferred method of play. Even when I myself adjust my play based on factors such as what I said, there are still certain constraints. There are still moves that I quite simply will not make–though obviously, I won’t be going into specifics here. The crux of it is this: for 99% of the opponents you can possibly face, you can predict them to at least some extent and they won’t be able to do anything that’s completely off the wall. From there, even if they make a move you’re not counting on, if you retrace the steps of the hand, you can figure out why they’ve done what they’ve done.
If you have the brains, that is.