One of the important skills to learn in poker is reading your opponent and knowing their tendencies. In certain situations a bet may be wrong if the player always folds to a bet but likes to bluff. You need to be able to have an idea of what your opponent might do so that you can do the opposite. For example, if your opponent likes to check raise, then checking behind a medium-strength hand will be your best option. If you have a strong hand, you should bet knowing that they will check raise you a large percent of the time. Against an opponent who rarely bets but calls a lot, you should be doing the betting yourself.
This week’s hand demonstrates the importance of knowing what a player is likely to do and acting on their behaviors accordingly. This will ensure that we try to get maximum value.
Our read on this player is that he is on the wild side. He’s bluffing often and not being very creative about it. The real key is the bet sizing and the timing of the bet. Even on the internet, you can get great tells, and timing is one of the better ones. The timing tells can be negated if a player is a regular, but if they are a bad player the timing is everything.
We start the hand playing heads up at a 10nl table. After about 20 hands or so, our read is formed as the villain is playing a very characteristic fish style. We are dealt A9 off in the big blind and the villain limps. He has limped almost every button and we've been raising a good bit from the blinds trying to exploit this weakness. I don't condone raisng out of position very often, but against this type of player, it's your best play. I should note that their post flop behavior is very weak, but when they are shown weakness, they go for the bluffs.
The flop comes down and we hit middle pair. Heads up this is a decent hand to lead out with, as there are lots of draws that can call us, and we would like to start defining our hand right off the bat. It would also be fine to check since this player is known to bluff often. In this case, I think either betting or checking is fine.
We get a call on the flop and the turn brings a blank. It does bring another flush draw out there, but it's basically a meaningless card. In order to maintain pot control, checking is a solid option. Against a weak calling station I advocate betting as they will call with many hands. In this situation, I feel checking is best because having to call a raise will not be optimal. And, since we have a read that they bluff, we can safely call a bet and get value from a hand that would just fold if we bet.
We do check and our opponent leads out almost pot. This bet was made almost instantly, and this is where our timing tell comes in to play. Also, the bet size is almost as if he clicked the slider until they let go without any thought. The only thought may have been, "I'm going to bet big because I have nothing and want them to fold." That may even be a stretch for this player.
We call as we should, and the river gives us 3 of a kind. In my mind this is the nuts, and we want to let the villain hang himself. We know he is going to bluff, so checking is by far the best play. If we bet, he might fold, possibly raise, but the odds that he will bluff on a check are much higher. He has not been raising our bets that often. Most of the bluffs have been when we showed weakness.
We do check, and villain makes his instant bet again that is on the larger side. We raise all in as this is the only play left, and the villain instantly mucks, letting us know he had nothing. It's not often we should be checking a hand this strong on the river, but when you are observant and can pick up on player tendencies, you can begin to make plays that revolve around your opponents, not just your cards.