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Fine Tune Your Game In 4 WEEKS PART 2

Article By: Michael Monroe

Now that you’ve learned how to calculate pot odds, you can start looking at the other players. Learning how they play will be a key factor in determining how you play your own hand, pot-odds or not.

Knowing the percentages and when to play a hand is an important part of poker. Because the game is largely determined by numbers, only the newest or laziest players go through the game without any recognition of the importance of outs, pot odds or percentages. However, you are not playing against numbers, you are playing against other people. Learning how to read other players is at least as important as learning the numbers. Your next step in fine-tuning your game is to learn how to categorize and recognize how other players play.

Step 1: Take one person at a time:

Learning to spot tells or playing styles can be difficult, especially when you are at a multi-table tournament where you change tables often. But don’t worry, you don’t have to keep notes on every player you ever play against and try to remember every play they make. To start, you want to focus on 1 player. Pick a player at your table and watch how they play at every hand. Don’t try to analyze or pick out flaws in their play at first, just watch them. At this point you should watch for betting habits. For example, if early in a tournament they call an all-in with a hand like A-9 suited, keep that in mind. If they make a bet every time they are on the button or if they raise in the big blind when everyone else has checked down, remember that. Your goal here is to learn how to watch people.

Step 2: Make Notes:

Once you are comfortable watching that one player, you can now start taking notes. Keep special attention to when they make it to a show down and remember or write down what they did at every stage of the hand. (You can usually check the hand history, depending on the site you are playing on.) What should you write down? Take this example: You’ve been playing at the same table with your target and noted that they bet about 3-times the big-blind whenever they have an A-K or A-Q. This is good to write down because it shows a pattern. Any betting behavior they exhibit regularly is something to write down, as well as their behavior whenever they are in an early, middle or late position.

Step 3: Test Your Notes:

Now that you have notes on that person, you can test them out by trying to predict a hand based on their behavior and your notes. So, using the above example, let’s say you observe your target make a bet of 3-times the big blind. You should immediately be thinking “They have A-K, or A-Q”. If the hand makes it to a showdown and your prediction was correct, you are getting the hang of it.

Step 4: Expand to More Players:

Now that you have your target observed, start expanding to other players. Take it slow at first by watching one person at a time. Even this is better than nobody. As you get more comfortable and learn what to watch for, you can start adding more players to your observation strategy.

Step 5: Place players into Types:

Once you’ve learned to look at one or more people at a table, and you’ve played multiple tournaments, you can start placing players into categories. Since most players play the same every time they are in a game, once you learn to place players in a category, all you have to do is learn how that kind of category acts and you can read entire populations at a time.

Step 6: Learn How to Mimic These Types:

If you progress to the point where you can spot several difference types of players, you can use that information to your advantage when playing against good players who are also making these observations. You already know how the ‘blaster’ plays, or how the ‘super-tight’ player plays. Mimicking this player type can be useful if you want to trick a good player into thinking something about you. Once you convince them you are one thing, you can then shift gears and start playing in another style to confuse them.