How Can I Hand Read Better?

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Today’s question comes from Blake C, and Blake says, “Could you do a video or post on hand reading? I saw one you did previously, but you had premium hands in it.”

So Blake, thanks for the awesome question and before I dig into it, there’s a couple things that you may want to check out that I’ve already done. There’s the free video I did, it’s called the “Three L’s of Hand Reading” I would definitely check that out if you haven’t already. There’s a product for sale in my store that talks all about hand reading, it actually has two videos, that would probably be very helpful as well. Remember that even in my individual hand analyses, videos that I’ve done here, articles that I’ve written, hand analyses that I’ve done for my site, etc., I also talk about hand reading just in a very specific way. So if you haven’t really checked any of those things out, there’s plenty of different places that I’ve talked about hand reading that would also help you. But with that said, let’s talk about a couple things I think are pretty important for improving your hand reading skills in this video.

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I’ve covered different hand reading things and other videos and I want to talk about something a little different in this one that relates very heavily to hand reading and that’s essentially deconstructing your own ranges so that you can understand hand reading from a deeper point of view.

What I mean by this is go through your own game and start looking at your own ranges and understanding what your range is, when you open raise from certain positions or when you three bet from certain positions or when you three bet from X-position against Y-position to open, that kind of thing, and start looking at your ranges both preflop and postflop and really deconstruct them and write them down. I cannot stress that enough. Actually sit there, probably spend four or five hours and dig through all of your ranges and start understanding what your range looks like.

The big reason why you’re doing this is actually two-fold. One, so you can start comparing your ranges to the math, compare them to what that range looks like in Equilab so you can start understanding ranges on a numerical standpoint, which is very, very helpful.

The second reason why you want to do it is so you can start understanding how people that are similar to your player style likely shape their ranges and what their ranges likely look like. It may not be perfect, it may not give you an exact representation of a similar styled opponent’s range, but at least it gives you a nice starting point that you can use and then you can start saying, “Okay, well, I think their range is close to this,” and that gives you a great starting point when you’re trying to hand read them both preflop and postflop versus doing it totally raw or with no other information. So at least it gives you a starting point.

player type graph

Then you can also say, “Okay, well, this person is slightly tighter than me.” Okay, they’re probably in a slightly tighter variant of the ranges you just wrote down or, “This person is slightly looser than me.” Okay, the ranges are probably slightly looser than the ranges you just wrote down. So it starts giving this kind of comparative way to look at other people’s ranges, so you can start understanding ranges, and again, on a numerical level, but also on just a player-type level, both players that are exactly like you and similar to you, either tight or looser. This gives you the ability to find ways that players are making mistakes, and can you learn how to beat them AND beat yourself!

Don’t just stop your preflop when you’re doing this work, also go postflop. Postflop, there’s a ton of different variables that will obviously influence your range, whether you’re in or out of position, what the exact flaunt texture is, what the exact runoff is, is it multi-way, heads-up, three way, whatever. There’s a bunch of things that obviously factor into it, but do your absolute best to start understanding, okay, how do I tend to like single broadway boards, double broadway boards, three low card boards, etc.? How do I tend to react when I’m a position versus out of position?

Also start looking at it from a numerical point of view. If I open 20% of hands from middle position and I’m getting to an ace-high flop, how am I typically going to be continuation betting in that situation? Am I giving anything up by continuation betting too little or too often? Start looking at situations where maybe your ranges don’t look quite right and start understanding how you may be able to fix them and/or finding ways that you can start beating your opponents that may be making those same mistakes, or having their ranges too wide or too tight in certain situations.

20 percent of poker hands

But again, you’re only going to be able to understand that by really doing the work. The first time I did this work, I think it took me like five or six hours, it was really, really stressful and tough to do, but it made me a much, much better player within like a week simply because it is so much work and it’s forcing you to again, not only look at ranges from a hand point of view, but also from a numerical point of view, which can make you so, so much stronger, especially when you’re bluffing.

So, Blake, hopefully this gets you started the next time you’re working on your hand reading and if you or anyone else has a poker-related question, feel free to leave it on our Google+ page. Also, please make sure to like and subscribe if you’re enjoying this type of video!

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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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