First Iíd like to just say how much Iíve learned about poker from this forum and hope to be able to give something back to the group of people and community that has helped me makes money and exercise my brain. Iíve only really been around about 8 months and didnít play seriously for many of those first months, but after gradually spending more time on 2p2 and getting the courage to post here Iíve developed into a poker player (I have the FTP jersey to prove it !). I didnít write a Pooh-Bah post for several reasons, mostly I am lazy. At the request of lorez I am discussing hand reading and bet sizing, as I feel they go hand in hand. I am currently playing 200NL with occasional shots at 400, but Iíll try to keep this basic enough for all levels of uNL and up.
Practice, practice, practice. Work on developing your reads, put people on hands all the time. When you are watching a high stakes game, or just in between hands at other tables, actively attempt to put people on hands. I will frequently say out loud the hand I think my opponent has, this creates accountability. Secondly, you have to put faith in your reads. If you put your opponent on a draw and then he makes a PSB on the river, make the call. As soon as these decisions start influencing your bankroll you suddenly become much more excited about the proposition of being right about what your opponent has.
What you can do at the table. Make notes, and lots of them. Whenever you see someone play a hand differently than their PT stats or perception of them as a player would lead you to believe, make a note. Some samples: ďdonkbet with airĒ, ďlead into pfr and bet 3 streets with TPWKĒ, ďbluff raise river with missed drawĒ. But Iím getting ahead of myself here. What basic elements of pt stats should you be looking at when deciding hand ranges for opponents?
VPIP This is the most basic, if your opponent has a vpip under 20 he just isnít going to have 94 if he limps behind limpers or cold calls a raise. Most likely he is limping with suited connectors, Axs, and small-medium pocket pairs.
PFR This one is pretty clear too, if a x/6/x player raises from UTG in a 9 handed game, he isnít going to have 33 or AT, these shouldnít be included in his hand range later.
AF Now this is where it gets more complicated, people with low AF (total post flop), say lower than 2, arenít often betting out with draws, or making elaborate semi-bluffs. When a passive player raises the turn your TPTK is often no good (see: Baluga Theorem). Similarly these players arenít going to bluff missed draws as often so if there was a FD on the flop, its not wise to assume that a missed draw is a big part of villainís range when he pots the river.
This has all been pretty vague, and is intended as more of a primer for some of the uNL people and maybe some of the limit converts. A lot of hand reading is based on what I would call feel. Sometimes you just know when a guy is leading into you with a flopped set and you can make a great fold with an overpair. One of the biggest cues I use to read hands online is bet sizing.
Preflop The small raise from EP: A typical LP player opens in EP for just over the minimum. This is nearly always a monster. Min-raises: This is something I make notes on to narrow a range down, but as far as I can tell, a good range for minraises preflop is 22-99, A2s-A9s, 34s-JTs, suited one gaps, and then it kind of breaks down based on individuals. These are ďpot sweetenersĒ just juicing up the size of the pot with a hand they want to play. Use this to your advantage and see a flop too if your hand is reasonable, or if itís a good hand, then go ahead and re-raise them and youíll often find yourself winning the pot preflop. The 8xbb+raise: This is a scared monster, something like QQ or JJ where the villain doesnít want to play postflop, some will pull this maneuver with KK, AA, and even AK hoping to take it down then, or build a big pot so they donít have to worry about folding. Use the 5/10 rule judiciously, and donít try to 3bet these guys light, they arenít going anywhere. Our raises: As you can see, a simply pfr size helps us narrow down our opponents hand range, in some cases significantly. This is precisely why we use the 4xBB +1/limper formula to make preflop raises (a PSR is fine too, especially as you get to .5/1 and 1/2). 3 bets: The lower the level the tighter our opponents are here, at 25nl (I never played 10, so I donít feel comfortable making generalizations) most villains arenít 3betting without QQ+, and maybe AK. As you move up, the average playerís range widens to something like TT+ AQ+ at some of the more aggressive 200nl 6max games. Use this to your advantage. At the uNL levels, see a flop with a PP these guys cant fold aces ever, so stack them with every set, but be weary and donít put more bets in postflop ďjust to make sureĒ. No set, no bet is the way to go here. As you move up, start 3betting with a wider range yourself, I think in shorthanded games especially, you should be more aggressive than the average player preflop, For example, at 50nl when most people arenít yet 3betting without the goods, try a resteal the next time that tag that has a name like BustoYOU tries to steal your blind, liberating isnít it?
Flop We are finally here, some community cards to work with. Now we get more information about our opponentís hand. Iíll deal with mainly raised pots in which we are the aggressor, as this is the most common spot for a 2p2 TAG to be in.
Donkbets: This is when a guy calls your pfr OOP and the leads into you on the flop. In general this means a weak made hand or a draw. The more taggy your opponent the more often they will be leading sets and big draws they want to b/3bai with. If a typical player leads into you on a Q72r flop and you have AQ, control the pot and just call. If the flop is QsTs8o then consider raising to price out a draw. If you hold an overpair and a TAG leads into you on a dry flop, call and re-evaluate the turn. If the flop is draw heavy you can either raise, or let a blank roll off and bomb the turn. If you see someone lead into you with a hand like TPTK or another odd hand, then make a note.
Minbets: In general treat these as checks, if you were planning to check behind, then just call. If you were going to make a cbet, make a good sized raise. These hands tend to be even weaker than those by people who make larger donkbets including small PPs and naked draws.
I could go on and talk about every type of betting situation and what I think of various betsizes, but Iíd rather look at some examples of where hand reading comes into play.
The villain in the following hand is 16/8/24, yes 24 aggression, with a 15% WtSD (sample size is 300 hands). He had been playing solid aggressive poker, and I feel like he can fold due to his low WtSD. I decide to call with AQ preflop because I have position and I also suspect that he is raising limpers from LP with a wide range. On the flop I have 2 overs and a gutshot to the nuts. He makes a standard, if not a bit small, cbet I decide to call with position looking to bluff the turn or make the best hand. I suspect that he will fire a second barrel fairly liberally as his turn AF is 6. The turn is a total blank and he fires again. Now here is where the hand reading comes into play. Would he fire again here with a huge hand like 3 Jacks? Unlikely, he would likely go for a c/r. Also I suspect he is capable of making a laydown and so a hand like AA will often get mucked if I push. The reason I can assume this is my image, over the 100 hands I played at this table I had been quite tight, playing 16/7.5/2 with a WtSD of only 5.8%. With this type of image I think his calling range is on the order of JT, TT, JJ, sometimes QQ+. Against this range I am still drawing live, but most importantly, the portion of his range with which he bets (something like 88+, AT+ KQ, QJ, JT, and some other random aces) I have a lot of FE against.
Full Tilt Poker No Limit Holdem Ring game Blinds: $2/$4
Stack sizes: CO: $473 Hero: $420
Pre-flop: (9 players) Hero is Button with Q A UTG folds, UTG+1 calls, 3 folds, CO raises to $20, Hero calls, 3 folds.
Flop: 3 T J ($50, 2 players) CO bets $28, Hero calls.
This next hand took place in an aggressive shorthanded game, with lots of light preflop raising. Villain is a typical aggTag and plays about 23/20/3. My image is similar at 22/18/3. I played this hand with him earlier which indicates his range preflop is widened as well as some hint to what his flop check means. Full Tilt Poker No Limit Holdem Ring game Blinds: $1/$2 Hero: $248 BB: $1070.25
Pre-flop: (6 players) Hero is UTG+1 with 4 4 UTG folds, Hero raises to $7, 3 folds, BB raises to $21, Hero calls.
Now, on to the hand: I put his preflop range at AT+, KJ+, 22+, and some scís. I would have likely folded to a cbet on this board, but he checks. I canít stand a check raise and would likely check here with most hands (especially a set). Because of the previous hand, I start to discount the chance of him having a set or AK here, although itís certainly a possibility. I decide to make a move on a decent turn card and check behind. The turn is another low blank and he makes a bet, I go with my plan and make it 122 to go, this sets me up for a potsized river push which is the betsizing id use with the nuts or a set here. He calls and I start to wonder what his hand is, could he actually have AK? He checks it to me on a fairly blank river card. After he checks I immediately remove a set from his range, he would never play it that slow (he plays big hands fast like most 2p2 style tags). I think his range is something like JJ, QQ, AA, AK. Of this range I think they all fold to a river bet. The only hand of those I can see looking me up is AA, and I cant win by checking. Now, a betsize. How much would I bet here with a set? I make a roughly 2/3 pot bet and this way I save some money when he has played a big hand sneakily, and I think 220 and a push are the same when it comes to folding out other hands.
Full Tilt Poker No Limit Holdem Ring game Blinds: $1/$2
Stack sizes: Hero: $475.90 BB: $835.40
Pre-flop: (6 players) Hero is UTG+1 with Q J UTG calls, Hero raises to $9, 3 folds, BB raises to $27, UTG folds, Hero calls.
it is often easy to put competent villains on a range of hands, because they play in ways that make sense. playing a straightforward game that makes sense is great because it will tear up the donks, but what's even better is taking your style to another level and picking on the guys who can really only take money off the donks, because it's A) a whole new source of profit, and B) a skill that will serve you well as you move up in stakes.
i've heard hand reading referred to as a puzzle, because when the "pieces" get put together (villain's preflop, flop, turn and river action combined with how you know villain plays preflop and postflop), you can often get a good idea of villain's hand.
glad to see OP didn't post results in two out of the three hands, because it's the thought process that's important, not whether or not villain folded or how accurate hero's reads were.