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The Poker Tree

Reading your opponent’s possible hands at the poker table is a process of logical deduction resembling a tree. From a wide base, a player’s potential holdings branch off into those that are likely, and those that are not, until a finite selection remains. 

One of the classic mistakes that inexperienced poker players make is to add hands to a player’s range as the hand progresses. Indeed, the opposite is actually the case: the further the hand develops, the smaller your opponent’s range becomes. 

For example, let’s assume your opponent has a potential hand range of: 22+, AT+ and 7-6+. This is quite a broad range to begin with. However, after you bet and your opponent calls on a K-J-9 flop, you can begin to rule out a lot of hands. 

Indeed, it is very unlikely that your opponent would call on this flop with any pair below pocket nines.

Similarly, many of their suited connectors will have been sent into the muck on this flop. This thinning process continues on the turn and again on the river (if the action gets that far), until there are only one or two possible hands they may have.

You also need to factor your opponent’s image in the initial assessment of their range. A player who has sat tight for an hour, and not played a hand, is very unlikely to be raising pre-flop with 5-4 suited. Conversely, a player playing every other hand will have a wider range than just the top 5% of hands. 

Reading hands in poker is part science and part art. You need to understand the type of hands different players play, as well as the way in which they play them. Once you have established this, you can begin to assign different degrees of likelihood to each possible scenario. 

Put theory into practise, by picking up a Poker Bonus, and playing online.

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The Poker Tree