A lot of hand reading has to do with pegging your opponents preflop range—raised pot, position etc.
Hand reading in no limit is a skill that gets shaped with experience. You can teach someone the fundamentals and tell them what typical actions and betting patterns mean but you cannot teach the innate ability to have “feel” especially as it relates to the strength of an opponents’ hand.
One of the things that I say in my training material over at CrushLivePoker.com that is often overlooked in reading someone’s hand is probably the easiest to identify—the preflop action. If we know that someone is a tight player we can surmise a reasonable preflop range for them based upon position and we can then take that information to help us read their range later on.
Let us take a look at a hand that I recently played at $5-10 last week. The villain in this particular spot was a young guy, played relatively tight and I knew he respected my game. In fact, I had even remembered making a training video about some situations that he been involved in on Live at The Bike in the last year and I knew that he played pretty snug. The action got around to me and with effective stacks of $1400 I opened to $30 with 8♠ 7♠ on the button. The villain was directly to my left and flat called in the small blind. The big blind folded and we saw a flop of A♣ 6♥ 9♥. The small blind checked and I thought this was an excellent spot to make a semi bluff continuation bet as I was open ended and would have a fair amount of aces in my range so I went ahead and bet $45. The small blind thought for a while and called. This is where a lot of people would not use important preflop information when going through a hand reading process. At first, I thought that this was going to be an excellent place for me to fire multiple barrels, as I had decent equity and it would be logical to infer that my opponent did not hold a big ace because of the flat call preflop. Often times it is not the best approach to try and bluff someone off of top pair at these levels but knowing the history of this particular opponent leaned me toward that direction. Obviously the small blind could have held a flush draw or straight draw, nine or six as well. Or could he? If I was in his particular spot and I had a good player that I respected raise on the button it would be hard pressed for me to call with hands that contained many 9s or 6s in them except maybe A9 or A6 and possibly someone of the ungapped suited connectors, but even with those hands I would three bet them with some frequency.
This is pretty valuable information is it really skews the small blind’s range to having an ace or flush draw. The turn was one of the worst cards in the deck for me, the A♥, completing the flush and putting two aces on the board. I have talked before, here in this column about double barreling cards that may not be the best turn cards and how to determine when to make these unorthodox bets. Usually, I have said, that you should do so when you have equity—like a straight draw or flush draw. However, if I were saying that the small blind rarely has a 9 or a 6 and his range is skewed more towards aces and flush draws, than betting here on 4th street really would be a spew.
Again, this is not anything advanced, it is just properly recognizing that a tight player is going to flat call tight out of the small blind, especially against a player that he respects and it allows me to logically reason and hand read in a more accurate fashion post flop.