Look for patterns in opponents’ poker play

Evaluating your opponents can give you a significant edge over those who can’t be bothered to make the effort, or do it poorly. The more information you can gather about your opponents, the better chance you have of making the best decisions in your own favor.
What kind of player is each opponent: Tight or loose? Passive or aggressive? Very aggressive (a maniac)? A calling station (he can’t be bluffed out!)? Timid (easily bluffed out)? “Tricky” (he often bluffs)?
You also might look for a pattern in each opponent’s betting. For example, does he almost always raise before the flop, bet on the flop (a continuation bet), check on the turn, and bet again on the river? Certainly, not all players have a betting pattern. But it doesn’t hurt to look for one.
More important is what kinds of hands he plays. Does he pay to see the flop in accordance with Epstein’s Hold’em Algorithm? Or does he stay to see the flop with hole cards that fail to meet the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm?
For example, according to the Algorithm, an early position player should be folding pre-flop about 1 out of 6 hands. My co-columnist, George “The Engineer” Epstein tells us that a player who consistently sees the flop more often than 1 out of 3 hands, is bound to be a “PokerPigeon.” That’s a player who “came to play.”
Winning is not his main goal. We welcome him (and his chips) to the table. In the long run, he is bound to contribute to the more discerning players.
Yes, it is important to know what kind of player each opponent is and how he generally plays his hands. That information will help you to make the best possible decisions as the game is played. However, often neglected is gaining key information at the showdown.
At the showdown
Most players often miss a great opportunity to gain vital information about their opponents during the showdown. That’s the point in the hand, after all the betting is over, when the remaining players turn up their holecards to determine who has the best (the winning) hand.
Whether you are still in the hand at the end or just observing the action, whenever possible, it is prudent to see what hands your opponents played. That’s important in evaluating them. On that basis, you will be able to make better decisions when you are playing against them. There are all sorts of information you can find, but only if you make the effort.
Some players who had folded before the showdown may not even be watching the game as it continues. They would rather watch the football game on the big TV screen mounted on the wall. Unless they are betting on the football game, they are losing a great opportunity to evaluate their opponents.
As for the other players who are paying attention, all eyes are looking to see who wins the pot. What did he make? What were the hands that were beaten? How big is the pot?
It’s only human nature that we look for this. But more important – much more important – is what kind of hand did each of the finalists start with? What were his holecards? Does he play A-rag? Small pairs from an early position? Suited cards even if they are small? Small unsuited connectors?
Recall whether he played aggressively during the hand: What kind of holecards does he raise with? The only way you can gain this information is by carefully observing each player’s holecards during the showdown.
Bottom line
In summary, at the showdown, avoid the two mistakes so many others make, hand after hand: They either fail to observe the game in play, preferring to be distracted from the game or they look to see who won the pot, what his final hand was, and how big the pot was.
They neglect to observe the two holecards with which each finalist paid to see the flop.

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