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Learn from Your Opponent's Play

Poker Play – Knowing Your Opponent’s Poker Play

The key to successful poker playing is learning how your opponents play. If you can learn from it, you'll crush them in no time.

Some people think that the art of good poker playing comes from knowing the rules, studying your cards and playing conservatively. Still others rely on working out the statistical odds of making a successful hand out of the garbage they have been dealt, and proceeding on the basis of that percentage - rather like rolling dice in a craps game.

But the truly hard-core players, the ones who have longevity, who tend to outperform everyone else in tournament play, who are deadly in heads up situations ... these are the ones who are keen observers of human behaviour.

Because the ultimate poker players are able not only to bluff convincingly, but to be able to detect when other players are bluffing.

Know thine enemy

Therefore, if you want to be a truly successful poker player, you need to start watching the other players as much as you watch your cards. Drink in everything that you can about how they play.

Watch them closely. If you are playing live poker in a real, bricks and mortar poker room, this is particularly useful. Watch your opponent's face as they receive their hole cards. Did they flinch? Did they smile, however small the smile was?

And, what did they do next? Did they fold the hand? Did they simply call? Did they raise before the flop? But most importantly, was that action congruent with how they reacted when they received the cards?

You see, it's not enough to simply observe their behaviour. You have to tie in to how they act. Watch closely when they get caught bluffing. If they push the hand all the way to the river and then win, how were they behaving before they took the pot?

Building a profile

True success in poker comes from knowing your opponents play and learning from it. If, by watching them play, you start to learn how they behave, what their general strategies are, and when they are lying through their teeth, you will also be in a position to know when the best time is to call them.

Knowing their psychology will make it easy for you to push them into situations where they have no option but to go all in. You will learn what their tells are, the involuntary twitches that indicate that they are bluffing. You will also learn the things that make them angry.

This last item is particularly useful, because you can use it to put them on tilt, and a player who is tilting is not thinking clearly, allowing you to swoop in and decimate their chip stack.


Always bear in mind that many online poker sites will actually allow you to watch games that are in progress, if you are a member. If you are having trouble cracking the psychology of a particular player, take every opportunity available to you to watch them in action.

The sooner you know your opponent to play and learn from it, the sooner you will be able to defeat them.