How Important Is Hand Reading In Poker?

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Welcome to another episode of ‘Ask SplitSuit A Question’. I’m James ‘SplitSuit’ Sweeney here for ThePokerBank and today we’re going to answer one of your questions. Today’s question comes from Travis and Travis asks: “Do you think hand reading is important in micro stakes? At say 2nl or 5nl do you think hand reading is an important skill, or should classifying our hand and betting for value at these levels be enough? If you don’t think its important at 5NL, at what point do you think hand reading starts to become relevant?”

Travis, that’s a great question. I think hand reading is very very important and something that you should be starting to work on, even if your playing 2NL or 5NL, and of course if you’re playing any higher than that. Now you mentioned one specific part in your question that I really want to touch on. You asked if we should classify our hand strength and just value bet a ton. Now in order to correctly classify your hand strength, you actually have to do some hand reading. You have to have an idea of what your opponent’s range is right this moment and how what it’s going to look like if you do decide to say bet into them.

…to correctly classify your hand strength, you have to do some hand reading…

It’s very easy if you have a situation where you have total air or you have the nuts, because obviously those are very easy to distinguish and classification is going to be extremely easy. But when you’re betting something in between, say a single pair or you’re continuation betting with Ace King high, you can’t really classify if it’s going to be a value bet, semi-bluff, or even a SDV…unless you’re looking at your opponent’s range of hands. So you do need some type of hand reading skills.

Now hand reading at micro limits can be very tricky. This is because people in micro limit games are doing things that are weird, they have misunderstandings of concepts such as showdown values, they may check/raise with say top pair and a kicker in a situation where most people would just check call, etc. So it’s a little bit tricky to hand read at these limits but I did a video that I think you would benefit from. It’s called The Three L’s of Hand Reading. I would definitely suggest checking that out as it at least gives you a primer and a framework when it comes to hand reading.

You should most certainly start thinking about hand reading and improving your hand reading skills now, even in the micros. Now one of the things that I think is really helpful when it comes to building your hand reading skill set is hand reading yourself. Start by looking at your own ranges, think about what you open from UTG, what you standard open-raise with from middle position, what you standard 3-bet with from the cutoff…that sort of thing.  Start putting together some of your own ranges and understanding what your ranges look like and then say “well if I know that I’m an 18/15 and this is what my ranges look like from each positio’, then I have a basic idea of what another 18/15 might have.” If you were playing against someone who’s a little bit tighter, they probably have a tighter version of your range. If someone is a little looser, they probably have a little looser version of your range. So it at least gets you a starting point.

It’s not going to be perfect by any stretch, but at least having a starting point to work with when it comes to hand reading is going to be very very beneficial. So the short answer, yes, hand reading is very important, start working on that skill set now and its going to benefit you a ton in the long run!

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