When You Make A Hand Reading “Mistake”

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No matter how good you get at hand reading, sooner or later, you’re going to be surprised by something that an opponent shows up with on the river. When you’re just learning to get better at reading hands, this might happen a bit more often, and you have to decide at what point you excluded the hand from your range and what you should do to adjust in the future.

For example, say a TAG player open raises from early position in a nine-handed game and shows up on the river with 5♥ 4♥. This is pretty A-typical for most tight-aggressive regulars in full-ring no-limit hold’em games at this point, so you’d probably exclude the hand from your opponent’s range once he raised pre-flop. To avoid this mistake in the future, this is the kind of thing you should make a simple note about for future reference and go about your business. It’s definitely not something worth beating yourself up over.

Hint: Take a note but don’t automatically assume he opens all suited connectors from EP. This could have been a mix up hand or a favorable spot for it. Take a note and look for confirmation in future hands.

Another example is one where you open from MP and a new player flats you on the button. You flop two pair, pile in a bunch of money postflop, and the button ends up sheepishly mucking AA. Most players are excited to win the pot and never take end up taking a note here – which is a HUGE mistake! Even though villain was an unknown player it’s A-typical to see somebody just flat AA and not 3bet it preflop. So take a note that villain didn’t 3bet AA and again, look for confirmation! Maybe this was just a brain-fart from villain, or maybe this is indicative that his 3bet range is awkward.

Things like this can happen post-flop as well. For example, say a NIT open-raised AK from early position, which isn’t note-worthy at all and is definitely in any reasonable range you might put him on. However, he might make a continuation bet from OOP with that same hand on a flop of 987 that might stand out as being unlikely. This would surprise a lot of people since you won’t normally see a NIT CB a whiffed-AK on such a connected and unfavorable board – so if you see it, take a note!

What To Look For

There are 4 key things I pay special attention to:

> Did villain open a surprising hand from a specific position? It’s not uncommon to see air being stolen, but it’s uncommon to see air being opened from UTG.

> Did villain flat with a hand that normally gets 3bet? If so, was it a mixup kind of play or does this person have an odd 3betting range?

> Did villain CB an A-typical hand given the texture, position, SPR, etc.?

> Did villain play a strong hand oddly on the turn/river?

There are other things to focus on as well, but if you keep your eye out for those 4 things you’ll spot oddities in ranges quickly. As always, take notes when things surprise you (either physical, digital, or mental) and then look for confirmation as the session goes on.

The key thing to realize is that you shouldn’t rag on yourself for making a mistake when assigning villain a range. You aren’t psychic, and when you take misclicks and brain farts into account sometimes, you could see this opponent show up with 94o some miniscule percentage of the time. Just don’t worry too much about it, make a note about it, and go on about your play. If it’s something you’re really concerned about, post about it in the forums asking for a second opinion.


If your ranges are consistently off and you are constantly surprised by what your opponent was playing – you’ll want to pick up The Hand Reading Lab. This video course gives you a step-by-step system for assigning correct ranges every step of the way. There is no better investment if you are serious about improving your entire poker game

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SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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