Read this to read your opponents – making live reads [Editorial]
Friday, 28 January 2011
Despite being, at heart, an online multi-tabler, I do appreciate the appeal of playing with real cards and real chips in a real casino against real – as in tangible – opponents. As frustrating as it is to get in only twenty hands per hour instead of the 700 plus that I’m used to, it’s nice to have time to think and also the standard of play is laughable.
In fact, I would argue that anyone seeking to be a professional poker player now is better off making their bread and butter live cash games. There, the games still play like it’s PartyPoker in 2004 and top pair is good for calling off a 300BB 4-bet on the flop. Damn, he had a set? Man, I’m unlucky, set versus top pair, wow... let me reload another £500.
However, one of the things that an online guy like myself will find challenging is building up reads on other players without a HUD floating in mid-air under their face and telling me their VPIP/PFR, continuation bet frequency and fold to 3-bet stats. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. Turns out when you have nothing else to do but watch a game of poker it’s quite easy to get a read on opponents, even when they’re not in a hand. The standard post-hand discussion reveals a lot about a players’ level of thinking (I had the pleasure of hearing why someone value bet two pair on a four-diamond, KQJ4T board).
For example, earlier this week I busted out of a tournament at The Empire (he got the flush on the river when the money went in on the turn) but in the short 40 minutes I was there I already had reads on everyone at the table. Of course, they might not be solid and many of them start with base assumptions (he’s older so he’s less likely to bluff; he’s my age so probably thinks he has to cold 4-bet air at least once a session, etc. etc.) but revising them as you go on not only gives you something to do between hands but improves your bottom line.
Watching all the hands that are played at your table, even once you have folded your cards, is imperative to successful live play. You can probably still beat the live arena even if you do play around on your Apple-built wonder-machine between hands (see Toby Lewis and his iPad); however, while the difference between focus on other players’ actions and the lack thereof may not be the difference between a losing player and a winning one, it certainly helps.
As a quick example, here’s the reads I just built on a tournament table at The Empire in Leicester Square after just two fifteen-minute blind levels in the £25 bounty tournament that runs daily:
Seat 1: Matt Perry, wordsmith extraordinaire. He is a solid but undisciplined player who is annoyed that he has drawn the worst seat at a poker table. Protect those cards!
How do I know this? I’m him. The 1-seat and 9-seat are either side of the dealer and thus the most likely players to have their hands accidently mucked by the dealer.
Seat 2: Middle-aged Dutchman. Aggressive and probably a winning player but probably overly-aggressive and not worried about losing his £28 buy-in on a bluff.
How do I know this? He had made an over-sized raise out of the big blind versus four limpers and had acted in a way that I thought he was capable of re-raising light. He also turned Ad-Td into a bluff on a Ac-9c-8c-2s-2c board against A-8 and played the hand well. As he is immediately to my left I focused largely on acquiring reads on this player.
Seat 3: Michelle, the sweet but novice lady who called that aforementioned minbet with ace high. Typical home game player, unsure of the finer rules and the type of opponent you’d like to face all the time.
How do I know this? She limped pre-flop from early position with As-5d and check-called minbets on all three streets of a K-8-6-2-2 board against a horribly played Q-Q. Speaking of which...
Seat 4: Portly guy of my age, plays overpairs badly. A passive player who won’t want to put in much money without a solid hand, perhaps even the nuts.
How do I know this? He called behind Michelle instead of raising Q-Q and, obviously intimidated by the king-high flop, bet small amounts with a hand he liked but was frightened of committing to post-flop. Low-level thinker.
Seat 5: Chatty indie kid, probably solid. I can’t really call anyone a kid at my age but I think he may have been younger than me, or at least not much older. Seems standard TAG.
How do I know this? He folded each hand except his button, which he open raised, and against a limper, whom he isolated. He also discussed some hands with other players and his thinking was that of a decent TAG.
Seat 6: Old Ken Livingstone lookalike, has top pair and calls. He was on the nitty side but was up for putting money in on what he perceived to be favourable flops.
How do I know this? It’s not a stretch to imagine an elderly gentleman being on the tight side. He called a flop 3-bet for his stack on T-8-2 with a flush draw holding J-T and lost to A-T.
Seat 7: Loud, extroverted dinner lady, plays straightforwardly and can fold. She had poor fundamentals (limped and called too often, for example) but wasn’t horrible.
She folded top two pair on a four-flush board to a river bet from the Flying Dutchman up there; while it was the incorrect fold it shows she has the sense to not get married to a big flop.
Seat 8: Motherf***cker who busted me when his f***ing king of f***ing spades hit the river. Not that I’m bitter. He was the only player I didn’t have a read on because the only hand he played was my bust-out hand. I got him to put his stack in with 29% equity though so can’t complain.