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Opponent's Hand

Every poker player knows how important it is to try to figure out an opponent’s hand. This is called “putting a player on a hand” or “reading a hand.” Obviously, the ability to put someone on a hand correctly is one of the greatest assets of a successful poker player.

Not as obvious is how a related aspect of any particular poker hand may drastically alter your correct strategy. Nearly as important as putting a player on his hand is the ability to figure what he is putting you on. In other words, what does he think you have?

When you play against good players it is extremely important that you take this factor into account before acting on your hand. This is because your assessment of his hand can change a lot, based on what you think he thinks you have.

For example, suppose you know that he thinks you have a very good poker hand. If he still bets or raises under these circumstances, it is quite likely that his hand is very strong.  Thus you probably should fold unless your hand is even better than it appears.

Conversely, if you think that he suspects that you are weak, he is much more likely to try a bluff or to bet a mediocre hand.  Now a call is in order with any kind of a decent hand.

If you are the one who is considering betting, you once again must figure out what he puts you on.

If the hand has been played in such a way that it appears you are weak, you should consider betting a mediocre hand if you think it is the best poker play. 

however, you almost certainly should not attempt a bluff in this situation if, in fact, you have nothing since you almost certainly will get called. 

On the other hand, if you think he puts you on a strong hand you are much more likely to get away with a poker bluffing when you really don’t have anything. 

A mediocre hand, however, no longer should be bet since you don’t expect to be called unless you are beaten.

The art of determining what an opponent puts you on really only can be learned from experience. In general you have to go by the way a hand is played.

(Remember, however, that this whole discussion assumes that you are against pretty good players who are trying to read your hand and act on this information.)

As an example suppose you are playing in a tough seven-card stud game.  You raise with a queen showing on third street with three 7s and one 6 yet to act: 

Seven-Card Stud


The six “brings it in.” You raise. The three sevens fold.  The six reraises!

The 6 reraises. You have a pair of queens. Normally you would have to worry that the 6 has two queens beaten.

In this case, however, you know that he knows that you would have raised with nearly anything to try to steal the antes from one 6 and three dead 7s. 

Thus, he would have reraised with much less than two queens since he puts you on a possible weak hand. You, therefore, can feel quite sure that your two queens are the best hand and safely can reraise (or possibly just call to suck him in).

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