Many of the best live players are good at observing how people act in different situations. That doesn’t mean they’re looking at their eyes, it could be anything from foot movements to how to talkative they are or whether they seem to be breathing slightly faster. The key is to understand how to compare these behaviours and develop the experience to understand if they are significant.
Talking to an opponent is another key way to expose something about their hand. In a well known WSOP main event hand Roberto Romanello folds JJ on a board of AJK1010. He asks his opponent “will you show if I fold?”. Romanello is basically hinting that he wants to fold but it would help him to make the fold if he got to see whether it was right or not afterwards. The simple response from his opponent gives so much away “No”. This basically means his opponent doesn’t want to make it easier for Romanello to fold, which translates as, his opponent wants to be called because he has a big hand. His opponent actually begins talking before he’s been asked a question by saying “Just don’t raise me”. This is a very amateur attempt to make himself look scared of a raise when the opposite is true.
One simple aspect of working out whether you’re beat or not is looking back through the betting action up to that point and asking yourself if certain hands make sense for your opponent to have. This isn’t flawless because sometimes people play good hands in odd ways, but if most of the possible good hands on the board wouldn’t really make much sense because of actions on earlier betting streets, allow that to guide you.
Train yourself not to become overly attached to pretty hands. The strength of a hand is entirely relative. Forget how long you’ve had to wait for it. The only thing that matters is the situation here and now and the information attached to it. You might sit in a tournament for hours and get KK once and AK once and wind up with the second best hand both times. The difference between good players and great players is the great players calmly work out they’re beat, and fold both times, preserving their tournament life. Other players get frustrated, and talk themselves into a bad call.
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