Reading opponents in online poker.
One of the most important things in poker is to get a correct read on what the opponent will do next, and thus to get an approximate idea of what he/she may be holding in the pocket. Knowing that, will allow you to take control of the game and make your will prevail.
It is a commonly accepted fact, that a good poker player needs to manipulate his/her opponents. Keeping them in the dark and confused is by far not enough. You need opponents, who know what they have to do all the time. If you’re barely able to keep them from getting a read on you, and keeping them confused takes up all your concentration, then you’re not doing something right.
All right, let’s say you’re a good poker player, you get reads on your opponents fast and without much effort involved, and whenever you have someone figured, you bend them your way just as easily. How exactly do you get a read on an opponent?
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In real poker, - the brick and mortar variant - there are a myriad of ways to get reads on different players. Body-language, to which we’re all receptive, way beyond the point we would believe we are, is of a huge help. A person’s face is like the display of a computer: it offers easy access to the processes taking place within, and what’s more, sometimes the whole body becomes such a display for hidden emotions. Developing a reasonable poker-face is not an easy thing to accomplish, and most players fail miserably at it. Besides the telltale signals the opponent’s body and face will send you, you’ll also have access to pretty much every single gesture and signal (betting style, and so forth ...) that will make it easy for you to get a read.
As you probably already know, in real poker, getting reads on opponents is much easier than concealing your own emotions. This is where you need to pay extra attention when you’re physically sitting at the table. What about online poker, though? Do things work the same way there?
Online poker is about as different from real poker, as football is from rugby. Online poker provides players with a ‘mask’ they can hide behind, thus making the concealment of your bad poker face a child’s play. Unfortunately this whole deal works in both directions: it’ll be a lot tougher for you to get reads on opponents as well. This is the very reason why good real poker players turn out not to be such A-grade online players, and vice-versa.
The good news is, though, that you can get reads on online opponents, as well. Though the input you receive from them, will be drastically reduced, you’ll experience something that visually impaired people do: your other senses will sharpen to draw the max amount of information out of the sources still available. What exactly are these sources you’ll be able extract information from?
The speed at which an opponent responds to your actions: generally, players who take longer to respond, are in possession of a weak hand. Don’t ever stall if you intend to take a weak hand further. That’ll be a clear sign to your opponents that you’re in a predicament. On the other hand, you might want to take a bit longer before acting when you’re in possession of a monster.
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Online poker tournaments (especially freerolls) are full of maniacs. These guys will hit the ‘all in’ button, as soon as they see anything above 10 in the pocket, especially in the early stages of tourneys. There are two reasons why you won’t see these guys later on in the tournament, and these two reasons match the two types of maniacs you’ll encounter:
1. The reasonable maniac. This guy is the more dangerous of the two. His recklessness is actually part of a larger picture. He’ll act crazy and risk a lot in the beginning to see how luck treats him. In case he manages to build up a big chip-stack, he’ll settle down later on, and he’ll start playing reasonably.
2. This guy is full of hot air. All he wants to do, is ruin someone’s day, so he’ll never settle down. All you need to do, to beat such a player, is to wait it out and eventually call his all in, on something really solid. In poker, it’s fairly easy to beat yourself, especially if that’s what you’re set on doing anyway, so that explains why these guys will also be gone by the mid stages of a tourney.
The online chat, that pretty much all online poker rooms offer, is another clue. The player who constantly chats, will most probably not be a dangerous one. If someone complains online, is rude and tries to insult others out of sheer frustration, you’ll know that he’s not only a fish, but also a socially challenged specimen. Do not get drawn into the senseless yapping. Take note, and focus on your game.
Extremely tight players are also rather easy to get reads on. If you see the guy folding every hand, then raising on one, at the end of which he shows down quads, you’ll know where he stands. Especially if he repeats the same feat a few times.
Getting reads is possible in online poker too. Though the channels available for obtaining the information will be greatly reduced, bad players will always find a way to let you know just how bad they really are.
- by Jonathan Paige