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Tony Murtagh

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The G-Spot - Know Your Opponents Before You Play a Single Hand!
8/13/2007 1:15:49 PM

Playing good poker is all about knowing what your opponents are doing. Knowing your opponents is an exercise in reading betting patterns and tells. To read betting patterns and tells, you generally need a large enough sample set of information to work with. What are you supposed to do when you first sit at a table?

Well, for betting patterns, you can draw upon all your past poker playing experience to come up with a default playing profile to assign to your opponents. Regarding tells, there are some classic tells that apply as soon as you sit at a table–tells that will give you a rough idea of the general playing disposition of each of your opponents.

Your Opponents Reveal Everything When It’s Not Their Turn To Act
When you first sit at a table, observe how your opponents act when they have cards in front of them and it’s not their turn to act. Do they pay close attention to what their opponents are doing, or are they distracted while they wait for action to reach them? Distracted opponents who quickly fold are opponents who you can assume to be playing predictable, tight poker until you get evidence to the contrary. Distracted opponents who put carefree calls in pots are typically loose-passive. These players tend to have a bit of a clueless, blank stare.

Your Opponents Reveal Everything When They Aren’t In a Hand
Watch your opponents when they aren’t involved in a hand. Are they watching TV, turned around eating, chatting away, text messaging, or distracted in some other way? Or, are they paying very close attention to the action? Distracted players are playing their cards and nothing else. Attentive players are potentially dangerous…these are the ones you might want to steer clear of early in your session until you get a good handle on how they play.

Exploitive Play Early In a Session
By observing how your opponents behave at the poker table, you can get quick information about who to bluff, who to value bet, and who to avoid early in your sessions. The easiest time to make big mistakes is early in a session because that’s the point at which you have the least information to work with. The tells we’ve discussed will turn the informational battle at least slightly in your favor, so focus and pay close attention to everyone at the table…not just the players throwing chips in the pot.

Tony Guerrera is the author of Killer Poker By The Numbers. Visit him online at

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