Looking Beyond Your Cards

It has often been said that poker is as much about playing your opponents as it is about playing your cards, and the ultimate example of this point came when Annette Obrestad won a 180 player online multi table tournament with Post-it notes covering her screen and only once looking at her cards during the whole tournament.

Looking beyond your cards is vital if you want to be a successful poker player and it involves reading your opponents to understand why they are betting or not. Whereas the two extremes of players – tight aggressive and loose passive are fairly obvious, it is the players between these two limits which can create difficulties.

Furthermore, you have to also identify factors which are influencing their current level of play – are they on a tremendous winning streak or on the verge of going on tilt? You cannot assume that everybody plays poker with a cool, calculating head on, and emotions can often get in the way – irrespective of the amounts of money that are on the table.

The key question to ask yourself when observing your opponents around the table is “why?” Why has that player chosen to raise in early position? Why has a player in late position chosen to re-raise him? What are the motivating factors for their actions in relation to their position within the tournament or relative chip stacks in a ring game?

The answers may just be standard. Player A had a good hand. Player B thought his was better. But what if Player A was trying a poorly-positioned bluff? What does that tell you about him? How did their betting actions change after the next card was dealt? If you can figure how many outs are available from the cards on the table, and who might have what, you can apply that to your own betting action when you are involved in a hand.

The edge you can gain from looking beyond your cards and reading how your opponents play can be exceptionally lucrative and more valuable to you than all the pocket aces in the world. The secret to success in pursuing this advanced method of play is not to get read yourself. If you can predict how other players will react to your betting actions, you will be able to maximise the winnings from your best hands and steal pots with outrageous bluffs.

The best way of exploiting this advantage is to identify tables (usually single table tournaments) where there may be a number of players multi-tabling. Their actions are usually constant and quick and you can also use the search facility in many online lobbies to determine just how many games your opponents are involved in before you register for your game. Make a note of these players to follow them around the games that they are involved in, and profit from looking beyond your cards.