Narrowing Down Poker Hands

You can often narrow the range of the hands a player might have by just getting his general category. For example, a tight-aggressive holdem player just calls pre-flop in early position, the flop is Q72 and he suddenly goes crazy by re-raising, you then have to think what hands are likely.

The hands which might suit the flop are AQ, KQ, Q7, 72, Q2, 77 or 22. Most players would slow-play with QQ here. Even a straightforward player will tend to slow play a truly big hand. you can eliminate most of those hands based on what kinds of hands the type of poker player would have limped into the pot with from an early position.

We shall analyze each hands and see which are reasonable to just call, pre-flop, in early position. The hands AQ and KQ are raised in early position but at least some of the time they just call, so they are still stable. The hands Q7, 72 and Q2 are not reasonable calls from an early position, except for the loosest of players and 77 and 22 are candidates for early position play from all but tough and tight players. Now it leaves AQ, KQ, 77 and 22 as his possible hands, and for most players, you can eliminate the 22. This narrows down the field of possibilities slight a bit.

You should always be careful of how other players can interpret your holdem betting. If you have an image of a very loose player then the re-raiser might have any Queen if he is an aggressive player.

This is merely an example of the kind of thinking you need to undergo when trying to put a player on a hand. Think about their habits and use stereotypical thinking if you haven't played with them long enough to know their individual habits. Think about what they think your habits are. A raise from a passive, straightforward player who thinks you are tricky likely has very different meaning than a raise from a tricky, aggressive player who thinks you are a maniac holdem player.

Gathering Information

As the play goes on, you should give comment of the events, "he open-raises, he folds, he cold-calls, he raises, he bets." Don't speak it loudly. You must make the mental observation based on this, and you must do this even when you are not playing the any poker game, because moreover you can gain some useful information during the hand which can be beneficial to you later when you are playing at the game. You want to see the frequency with which a player sees the flop, the frequency with which a player defends his blinds from raises and the hands player open-raises with, raises with, cold-calls with and just calls with. In addition to the narrowing down of the hands discussed, this will often give you a good picture of what's going on even when there is no showdown. Stereotype each player, as well as note particular peculiarities of the individuals for use not only now but in the future sessions.

It is very beneficial, for each player, what kinds of hands he will tend to play and how he will play them in various situations. It can take some time to gather information but you should do it for those holdem players playing regularly with you. Examples of the kind of information you should look for about specific hands are:

1. Will he play pocket pair less than 6, 6 and from what position?
2. When he plays an A, xs from UTG will he limp or raise? What's his cutoff for an open-raise?
3. Will he raise with A, xs if he is on the button?
4. Will he raise with less than a nut flush when the flush card hits?
5. Will he raise and re-raise with a flush draw when heads up?
6. If he raises with two big cards pre-flop, will he continue betting to the river with just overcards?


Most players are consistent in many different kinds of situations. The situation need not necessarily to be same but the theoretical perspective that the player is using will differ from situations to situations, so that you can often make a lot of inferences. For instance, if a player tends to frequently raise pre-flop with speculative hands then you can also expect that player to play draws very aggressively. A player who flops a middle-sized flush and checks and calls to the river will not play draws aggressively. Such kind of player will not draw to a straight if the board shows a flush draw and will not often draw to a flush if the board is paired. Knowing what kinds of hands a player does not have is as valuable as knowing what kinds of hands he does have.

Why Do They Play

Some people enjoy the hunt itself more than kill. Some people don't see much reason to hunt if you don't kill something. Others just like having the nice gun. Poker is somewhat similar to it. Some play because they want to win money. That would be the book players. Some play because they enjoy the poker gambling. They also want to win but they want to create a gamble even more. That is the loose maniac players. There is a third group that doesn't really care if they win, so long as they "play right." They think they want to win but they really don't care. These are the players who are always mentioning what they have read in a book to the winners, telling them what they did wrong.

Most of the players play just for the thrill of the gamble. There is a large subset of aggressive players who fall into this category. These players want high-risk games and they will develop by frequent raises. High-risk games arise because that's what the players want - they made them high risk on purpose. Risk is the important criterion. That does not mean those players are unskilled. Some of them are unskilled but some of them are very skilled. They use their skills to meet their needs, not yours.

Before categorizing the player beyond the types, identify the reason they play - determine their motivating force.

Aggressive Players

Tough players tend to be aggressive players but very players aggressively are not tough players. Most of them are transparent and tend not to have very good table judgment.

Macho Players

There is a group of aggressive player who enjoys dominating the game. These players are tight and aggressive and tricky. There are different kinds of tight-aggressive-tricky player on tilt who will fairly raise pre-flop with two big cards and limp with big pairs. This kind of player will not give up overcards and will be aggressive with them, but will tend to try to trap you with a big pocket pair.
The word tilt derives from a pinball tilt. A player on "tilt" is one who is playing very badly as a result of some emotional dilemma.

If a player like that raises before the flop and you get heads-up with them. You should always call with small-suited connectors. With a player like that, you should call whether you are likely best. Your rival will raise you on the flop when you are the best and if you call or check then call on the turn, he will call a raise on the river with his Ace King. That would be implied odds.

Continue: An FPS Players on Tilt

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