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Why Play Pot Limit
Comparing Pot-Limit
Poker's Ten
You Playing Style
How Deep Are You
Taking The Initiative
Drawing Hand's
Reading The Opponent
The Art of Bluffing
Betting The Bully
No Limit Play
All In Coups


Using The Material
Pot-Limit & No-Limit
Big-Bet Hold'em Q/A
Big-Bet Hold'em Q/A 5-10
Big-Bet Hold'em Q/A 11-20
Pot-Limit Omaha
Pot-Limit Omaha Q/A
Seven-Card Stud
Lowball Draw
Key Pot-Limit
London Lowball Q/A
High Low Split
High Low Split Q/A
Strip Deck Poker




Acquiring the ability to read opponents well is more difficult than gaining mastery over technical skills such as knowledge of probabilities and understanding hand values. You need a lot of on-the-job experience to see how people actually act in a pot-limit poker game. Furthermore, a certain action may mean something different, depending on who does it. Perhaps Johnny Jones bets with a slight flourish when he’s bluffing, but Suzy Smith has a rockcrusher when she uses that type of betting motion. Even so, we think you can improve your skills in reading people to some degree by listening to the right type of advice.

               big-bet poker differs from most limit poker games in that the amount a player may bet is flexible rather than fixed. The size of the bet conveys information about the bettor’s hand. Interpreting this information is not easy, because there is no simple formula that applies to all people, situations, or type of poker. A big bet may mean a big hand. It can also be an indication of fear. Perhaps the bettor is bluffing. But more often, he simply has a hand that he thinks is good, yet is easily catchable. He wants you to fold. A couple of examples are a pair of jacks at hold’em before the flop, or a pat 8-7-6-5-4 at Ace-to-Five lowball draw poker .


An unusually small bet can be a light probe by a weak hand. It could also mean a big hand looking for action. For example, suppose lowball draw player opens in early position for the absolute minimum, then stands pat. Watch out! Most pat hand holders open with a fairly large bet, because they don’t want you to draw against them cheaply. So beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Getting a great price for your one-card draw may mean you are drawing dead or close to it, up against a pat six or wheel.

            I remember a pot-limit Omaha hand where a former World Champion put in a big reraise before the flop, which looked a lot like two double-suited aces. His inexperienced opponent called heads-up out of position. There was about fifteen hundred dollars in the pot preflop. Both players still had plenty of money in front of them. The flop came A-9-4. The weak player checked and the W.C. bet a small bet in relation to the pot size, and also quite out of character for the bettor, who usually bet the full size of the pot. All of us experienced players knew exactly what had happened. The W. C. had flopped a huge hand; top set and the nut flush-draw. The cheap bet was a Greek gift. His opponent did not understand the situation. The unfortunate fellow called the bet, drew at the smoke cleared, he had lost his entire stack of six thousand dollars. A small bet at a big pot could be a weak probe, But when a habitually heavy gunner does it, there might be big trouble lurking for the would-be caller.

       How do you detect a bluff after all the cards are out? One important principle is a player who has a little something to show down seldom resorts to a bluff. He simply checks and sees if his hand is good. Bluffing is an act of the desperate. Someone who has absolutely nothing is much more likely to bluff than a player who has some kind of hand. A hold’em player drawing at a jack-high straight and missing is far more likely to bluff than a player holding A-K who was trying to make likely to bluff if he busted out by pairing a six than by catching a queen or king.

        I have seen players get check-raised on the end and call, hoping to catch a bluff. While a here is not impossible, it is certainly improbable. If an opponent had nothing and wanted to run a bluff, he is much more likely to lead into you instead of check-raising. How could he be sure you would bet?

         Mannerisms that give away the strength of your hand are called “tells.” Poker literature discusses many of these tells, always with the same principle in mind. Players try to fool you. If they are strong they act weak, and vice-versa. My experience is this shows up most often in a player’s betting tempo. A fast bet may be a bluff, whereas a slow, hesitating bet may be a powerhouse. However, there are quite a few exceptions to this. So it pays to watch people and see what their normal betting tempo is, and what it means if they are abnormally fast or slow.

        This tendency for poker players to act the opposite of what they really feel is reflected in how they play a big hand. Quite a few players habitually slowplay their big hands. Try to identify players with this penchant, and take advantage of this knowledge.

        Here are a few mannerisms and what they usually mean:
(1) Shaking hands come more often from the excitement of holding a good poker hand than the nervousness of a bluff.
(2) A player who reaches for his money as you are about to bet would prefer that you checked. He may still call, but is unlikely to have a big hand.
(3) Beware of “speech bets.” A player who bets with his mouth yapping may well be chirping because of the excitement of holding a good hand.
   (4) A player who checks out-of-turn when the flop came down may be excited because he just hit a whopper.
(5)A player who looks at his money and then checks was thinking about betting.
I find that a player who acts a little disgusted when he checks on the end, if it is not a total act, will still remain with a good enough hand to call if you bet. For example, a hold’em hand for this action might be top pair with the nut flush-draw. He is disappointed that he missed the flush, but he still has a pair of ace.


We have only scratched the surface of the subject of reading rivals hand. To develop your skill in this department, be observant of your opponents. Pay particular attention to how much they like to bet in certain situations and the tempo used for the bet. Each player has his own “signature,” although this will vary with whether he is in front or stuck for that session. If you notice an unusual mannerism, do not automatically assign it he meaning it had when someone else did it. We all have individual idiosyncrasies, and you must learn what it means when that particular player acts in such a manner.
            Couple of warnings. First, a loose gambling player will have times when he is simply not in the mood to play fast, so don’t automatically pay him off. Second, when you’re stuck, don’t rely so heavily on some mannerism that you start finding flimsy excuses to make bad calls.

              ADDENDUM  BY  STEWART
           The real reason this chapter has to be limited in scope, despite the fact that there is little of more importance than going to the library in big-bet poker, is that it can’t be taught. It is mostly experience and “feel.” This cannot be explained.

             I once had a hand against a certain fellow at seven stud; I bet and he raised all-in. This could only be justified if he held one specific card in his hand. I called “knowing” he didn’t have it. The look on his face when he hit this precise card was almost worth the fact I lost the pot.
           Jackie once went all in against me at seven-card stud poker with an open pair of 8. So dead were his cards that I knew he couldn’t be full. After much thought, I called with aces with one card to come. “Full house,” he said. “No, you haven’t” was my response. He had two pair and Improved to out-draw him.

           Tony is a good player. The flop was Q-7-4 at Omaha. I held kings. The hand was checked on the flop with Tony last to speak. Now there came an 8. Everybody checked to Tony. He bet and I raised with just that pair. “call,” he said. Last card led to a board of Q- 7-4—8-4. I checked and Tony checked, saying he had a straight. “No, you don’t” was my riposte. He looked at his hand and conceded I was right. Unfortunately, he had a 4 in his hand and thus won. He is still annoyed I knew better than him what he held.

            Please feel free to explain these things to me. I suppose, in the last example, I felt Tony wouldn’t check in last position with four to an up-and-down nut straight. Yet, these are three  examples in 25 years play where I knew better than my opponent what they had in the hole. Even so, I am regarded as one of the most rational players.

            Sometimes a play is made which doesn’t make sense.This has little effect at limit poker as it can be ignored, but in big-bet poker the reverberations can be substantial.
            As an example, recently in limit seven card stud I held on fourth street (Q 2) 8 K. I was high and checked to two other players. The first player bet and both the other player and I called. On Fifth poker street (Q 2) 8 K 6 and I was still high. Now I bet. Both players called. Card six I again bet and received two calls. On the river, I made flush, bet out and received two calls. They stared blankly at my hand when revealed, until I put them out of their misery and told them the 6 was totally irrelevant.

              Of course, it looked as if that six had helped me. If hit an 8 or 6 on sixth street, there would have been a very fair chance I would win the pot there and then. In addition, a heart on Sixth Street is less likely to put on the frighteners.

              At pot-limit my opponent was high with an open pair in seven stud. He bet, and I with a flash raised. He called and then came out, perfectly obviously, betting blind on the river. What was I to make of this? Anyway, I called and won. Some months later I tried the same trick when I had a full house. My opponent passed. Of course, he probably didn’t notice my bizarre play.

              In Omaha there are several people in the pot and the flop shows a-10-7. Everybody checks. Now fourth street up pops a 2 and a player decides to bet early in hand. How could the deuce be relevant? The answer, of course, is that it almost certainly isn’t; the previous three cards were the important ones.
               Generally you should treat irrational plays as acts containing no inherent information. After all, your opponent may be drunk or stoned!

                 MULTIWAY  POTS
             Hands in which there are more than two participants can provide splendid opportunities for a good read.
               At sixth street in seven-card stud a player has bet with (? ?) A 4 9 A. You called with two pair and a third party did likewise with (? ?) K 9 7 J. On the river, the first player goes all-in. It is inconceivable that the other opponent has than kings up. A pass is required. Occasionally, it is possible to call with just two pair in the belief the aces are bluffing. I have even managed this myself at limit poker. With your call you are actually poker bluffing the third player in the hand. His kings up must pass and you can scoop in a substantial pot with a ridiculous holding. This smacks of black magic and is likely to put that third player on tilt.

                Again it is seven stud. You hold (Q 9) Q 8 2 4 with all your cards splattered liberally around the table. Your sole opponent is a strong player. You bet and he raises. A call is in order and a call at the river if he bets. If both queens have fallen, so much the better. You can call blind. He is probable on a steal.

                Once again, it is seven stud. You hold (A 7) 9 4. The pot is checked to you, and all the nines and fours have passed. You bet and are raised. Raise again. He is trying to push you over with a dead hand.
                At London lowball, the high card has acted and three players each with a 2 call. You hold (A 2) 3 and raise the pot. The next player with a 6 calls. All the others pass. Card 4 (A 2) 3 6 and your strong opponent (? ?) 6 A now comes out betting the pot. He is reading you for a 6 in the hole. Now raise the maximum. You will never have such an advantageous situation. Now, if he is reading in comfort and leisure, he should be able to work out you have the case 2. This pot actually occurred, and my much respected opponent called holding (8 4) 6 A. It was virtually all-in. He reckoned 2-1 for his money was a fair shot. In fact, against this holding, he is in dire straits. At least, he waited card before the total plunge. Had I hit the case 2, then he can pass no matter how large the pot and small the bet.
                  Players often overlook the fact that they are at the same library as their opponents. What is clear to them may be equally transparent to the opposition. Do please be a literate player.  


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