Using your reads against your opponents
We hear quite often about how important it is to have reads on a table. We also often hear about the basic reasons as to why this is – very simply and generally because we want as much information as we can get on our opponent’s tendencies in order to better establish how to play against him.
The thing is, a lot of advice that is spouted out is very general, and mind-numbingly obvious to most people. Things like “treat bets and raises from loose-aggressive players with less respect” or “don’t call raises from a rock without a very big hand”. Well duh, thanks Cpt. Obvious.
I aim, in this topic, to relay to you all something that I myself only really ‘discovered’ a few days ago. It’s possible that it’s already been documented in books, and it’s probably common sense to advanced players, but I’ve never personally actually seen it written anywhere. The satisfaction of finding something like this out for ‘myself’, so to speak, was more pronounced than the satisfaction I’d get from discovering something new through reading a book, or suchlike.
The simple principle is as follows.
“When you yourself make an unusual play that you know your opponent typically makes in a certain situation and with a certain type of hand, your opponent, assuming that he is not a very advanced player, is likely to think that you are in the same situation and have the same sort of hand that he would have if he were making the same play.”
Let’s say your opponent often leads with very small bets with a flopped draw. If we make a small bet on a flop, especially if we don’t often do it, one of two cases is likely to apply…
1) Our opponent hasn’t been paying any attention to us and automatically assumes that our small bet means the same as his small bets mean. Therefore he will think we are likely on a draw.
2) Our opponent is a slightly better player than in 1), and he’s been observing us. He sees us make a small bet that he notes we haven’t made before, and again, he believes that we may well be making this small bet with a draw, most likely because he doesn’t see a small bet with any other type of hand as feasible (because if he himself only or regularly makes these small bets with draws, it’s likely the only holding that a small bet ‘makes sense with’ to him).
Your opponent therefore puts you on a draw and raises big (either as a bluff or with a hand, it doesn’t matter), but in fact you actually have a very strong hand and can come back over the top. Your opponent could then still be ‘stuck’ in his beliefs and continue with a moderate hand, stubbornly thinking that you ‘have’ to have a draw because of your small flop lead, or he could give up, but it doesn’t really matter either way because you’ve either won or are very likely to win a pretty sizeable pot.
Obviously in situation 2) if we have to show our hand down our deceptive value has gone for the near future at least. Dragging in a big pot should be reasonable compensation for this, however.
Of course, when you come up against more advanced players you have problems because (a) they won’t be thinking on such basic levels, and (b) they will be changing up their play, so for example a small bet will not be indicative of one particular type of hand. Against total donks, uncultured players, or even intermediates, it can however pay to use your reads on your opponents betting patterns to gain some deceptive value by mimicing their betting patterns with holdings which are the opposite of the types of hand that your opponents makes the exact same play with. If your opponent has overbet bluffed rivers with missed draws a few times in a session, overbet a river with a big hand - he will invariably be more likely to call an overbet than a pot-sized bet with something marginal, as it "looks like a bluff" to him, because if he were in your shoes, it would be a bluff!
I’ll post a hand when I get home (I'm at work at the moment, so if this is horribly phrased in places blame the fact that I'm trying to look like I'm doing something productive). For me, it’s a real ‘landmark’ hand, because I can pinpoint it as the exact moment all the above came together for me.