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Dec 10, 2007

Reading Your Opponents

The BIGGEST MISTAKE you can make while playing no limit
Texas Holdem is to focus too much on your cards...

If you're playing draw, stud, limit, or any other form of
poker, then it's more important to concentrate on
MATHEMATICAL ODDS and PROBABILITIES.

But no limit Holdem is different.

You can be a math WIZARD and know the odds of every possible
scenario in the deck... but it will only get you so far.

Hell, you can know how to COUNT CARDS... but I'll still
knock your socks off and take your rent money if you face me
heads-up.

Because no limit Holdem is a game of PSYCHOLOGY.

To win, you must learn how to play the PLAYERS, not just the
CARDS.

The reason no limit Holdem is different from other types of
poker is because it's possible to bluff HUGE pots and go
ALL-IN...

And the only thing that separates YOU from your OPPONENT is
just two down-faced cards that are dealt at the beginning of
each hand.

That's it. Just two cards.

The reality is this...

No limit Holdem is PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE, and if you want to
WIN, you've got to learn how to get INSIDE THE HEADS of your
opponents.

You've got to know them better than they know themselves...
and predict their every move.

But how?

There are a lot of strategies and techniques around
identifying "poker tells".

A poker TELL is a habit or mannerism of a player that is a
"giveaway" to the strength or weakness of their hand.

Like a twitch of the nose... a crack in the voice... a shaky
leg... or a rapid pulse...

Tells like these are IMPORTANT.

And you must learn how to spot and take advantage of them.

But there's one tell that's MUCH, MUCH MORE IMPORTANT... and
it has NOTHING to do with body language, voice, or
mannerisms.

In fact, this tell is technically not even classified as a
"tell".

But it WILL give you a read on your opponents.

What am I talking about?

BETTING.

Stay with me here.

BETTING is the KEY to getting a read on your opponents...

It is through BETTING that you find out the strength or
weakness of another player's hand, which is how you WIN in
Texas Holdem...

BETTING is how you get inside your the heads of your
opponents. Especially the ones you've never met or played
against before.

Now, I'm not talking about just ANY kind of betting...

I'm talking about the bets YOUR OPPONENTS make IN RESPONSE
TO THE CONDITIONS AT THE TABLE.

Just ask yourself: How do the pros quickly and consistently
win at ONLINE POKER... where you can't even SEE your
opponents?

That's right... the answer is BETTING.

You've got to watch and STUDY what each player does in
response to the action...

This is true no matter WHERE you play Holdem... whether it's
online, at home, in a casino, or in a tournament.

Now notice how I said IN RESPONSE to the action...

This is the key.

Because you can't get a good read on an opponent every time
they make a bet.

The best time to get a read is when they have to REACT TO
ACTION AT THE TABLE...

When they have to make a DECISION.

Because this is the time when they're NOT in control...

For example, let's say the action is to Don to call a $10
bet...

Does he fold, call, or raise?

Does he hesitate, or immediately make a decision?

If he makes a raise, he's representing a good hand, and
takes control of the action...

If he hesitates and then calls, there's a good chance his
hand is weak...

If he immediately calls, he may have something or be on a
draw...

You get the point.

You can get a read on your opponent when your opponent has
to REACT TO ACTION.

Unfortunately, your opponent won't always HAVE TO react to
action at the table.

In fact, your opponent will often take CONTROL of the action
and force YOU to make a decision.

Which means everyone will get the chance to get a read on
YOU...

And that is NOT what you want.

So how do you counter this?

How do take control of the action AND force your opponent to
a decision?

The answer is this:

FEELER BETS.

Feeler bets are bets made in order to see where you're at in
the hand.

They're named "FEELER bets" because they allow you to feel
out the strength or weakness of your opponents...

And they're a CRUCIAL part of becoming good at Texas Holdem
poker.

Let me demonstrate with an example...

Let's say you're fifth to act in a $1-2 no limit game at a
10-man table.

You've got over $200 in your stack.

You look down at pocket nines.

You're not too excited about your position right here, but
you've been on fire the whole game. The action is on to you
to call the blinds.

This is where you make a FEELER BET... which would be a
pre-flop raise in this situation.

"$10 to play", you say as you splash the pot with ten white
$1 chips.

This feeler bet accomplishes four things:

1. You get to find out who's strong and who's not...

2. You get control of the action at the table...

3. You're not allowing your opponents to get a good read on
you...

4. You're getting a read on your opponents by forcing them
to make a decision...

Okay... so let's say the action around the table continues
as Nathan and Greg-- who are both sitting left of you-- call
your raise.

The next few players muck their hands, and then Cindy, who
is just to your right, jumps into the action and calls.

You really didn't want this much action with your pocket
nines.

But hey, you've built up a nice pot, and you might get lucky
and spike on the flop.

Plus, everyone simply called your pre-flop raise (no one
came back over the top), which is a good sign.

The flop hits:

K-7-4

Not too great of a flop for you, but not that bad either.

You would feel a lot better off without that King on the
board.

Cindy, first to act right now, taps her hand on the table
and checks to you.

This isn't surprising, since you took control before the
flop.

So the action is to you...

This is where most poker players would CHECK.

Big mistake.

Right now, you have absolutely NO WAY of knowing who has the
best hand at the table.

And that is PRECISELY why you must make a feeler bet...

Think about it:

If you CHECK, you're portraying weakness to your three
opponents... letting them know that the flop didn't help
you.

Which gives one of THEM the opportunity to make a bet or try
to buy the pot.

And you still won't know where you stand.

So instead of checking, you throw out a small FEELER BET
that isn't going to get you into much trouble.

This isn't a bluff.

This is just a bet to find out who has a real hand and who
doesn't. And it keeps you in a position to WIN the pot.

"Thirteen dollars", you say as you push in a stack of chips.

Remember, this FEELER BET isn't going to get you into
trouble. You're not going broke if you lose this pot...
because you've got over $200 in your stack of chips.

And this is the ONLY WAY you've got a chance at winning this
hand.

Nathan and Greg both immediately muck their cards.

The action goes to Cindy now, who thinks for a few moments
while peeking at her hand a second time. Finally, she calls
your bet.

Your feeler bet worked well. You got rid of two players...
and you've got a read on Cindy now.

Because she called, you think she might be on a draw or
might have the King without a decent kicker.

The turn card is an Ace.

This is GREAT for you.

It's great because you made that feeler bet...

Because you're confident that Cindy is NOT holding an Ace.
If she had Big Slick, she would've made a pre-flop raise,
rather than simply limping-in and calling your feeler bets.

She checks again.

This is where you can take the pot down with a real bet.

"Forty dollars", you say as you push in a stack of chips.

Cindy folds, of course, and you rake in a nice pot... all of
which was SET UP through your two feeler bets.

If you hadn't made your feeler bets, there's no way you
would've won the hand.

Because you wouldn't have scared out the other players, you
wouldn't have created good positioning for yourself, and you
wouldn't have had a read on Cindy.

This is why I make feeler bets all the time... and why you
should too.

I throw out "feelers" with top pair, second pair, bottom
pair, or draws.

These bets are the only way I know whether I have the best
hand at any particular point in time...

Sure, I get re-raised often. And that's when I fold the hand
and lose the bet I just put in.

BUT THAT'S OKAY.

Because I found out EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED TO KNOW.

If you get re-raised after a feeler bet, then you know you
probably don't have the best hand at the table... so muck
it.

Losing the few dollars you made with your feeler bet is
perfectly fine...

Because it's MUCH BETTER than just CALLING bet after bet
without getting a read on your opponents... and then losing
after all the cards get flipped over.

That's a SUCKER way to lose a pot.

And you'll go broke that way.

Plus, my feeler bets give me CONTROL and create ACTION at
the table...

If a nine had come out at the flop in the example above, I
wouldn't have needed to slow-play it...

And I wouldn't have been worried about having a monster and
not winning any money with it (which happens to a LOT of
amateurs)... because I had already created action with my
FEELER BET.

So the next time you play no limit Texas Holdem, throw out
feeler bets consistently and use them to your advantage.

Nothing too big... just enough to get a read on your
opponents and find out where you're at in each hand.

You'll IMMEDIATELY realize the POWERFUL EFFECT that feeler
bets will add to your game.

Because you'll have HUGE stacks of chips in front of you at
the end of the night...

While EVERYONE ELSE will just be sitting there, with their
jaws wide-open, wondering how in the world YOU BEAT THEM SO
BADLY...

From: Roy Rounder November 18, 2007