Poker Betting Strategies – Betting Patterns And Hand Reading

Poker Betting Strategies - PatternsUnderstanding betting patterns is the first step in learning how to read hands. Figuring out betting patterns is one of the most important poker betting strategies, and is made of determining the sequence and sizing of bets placed during the course of a hand. Learning to identify betting patterns and then using logic to put your opponent on a list of likely hands will take you a long way to figuring out what hand your opponent holds.

There is no way to list every possible pattern but I can provide you with an example that demonstrates the general idea. Let’s say you’re playing against a tight player who hasn’t made a whole bunch of noise so far. He limps in with something in middle position. You get something good on the button (it doesn’t matter what) and raise it up. You and the opponent take it to the flop heads up.

The flop brings three low cards; let’s say 246, and he checks to you. You bet and he calls.

The turn brings something like a ten and again he checks, you bet and he calls again.

Now it’s time to start some thinking. He’s a tight player, you’ve shown a lot of strength and still he’s called twice. For whatever reason, you ignore this tingling danger feeling you’re getting and continue on.

The turn brings a king. Again he checks, again you bet, but suddenly he drops a massive hammer of a checkraise on you for the rest of his chips.

What does he have? Well, let’s break it down. He is a tight player and he hasn’t made a lot of noise but right now he’s all in. Probably a big hand…but can it beat your big hand? His betting pattern definitely matches that of a slowplay. Could he have 35 for the flopped nuts? It definitely fits the betting pattern but it wouldn’t make logical sense. What we’ve witnessed of his tight style makes it highly unlikely that he limped in with 35o in middle position and then called a raise out of position.

Could it be some sort of overpair like 88-JJ? It’s possible but he played it awfully strong on a river that could easily have improved whatever strong hand I’ve been representing to him (you have to look at the hand through his eyes too).

A draw isn’t very likely either. The guy has played tight so far so it wouldn’t make sense for him to chase a draw on two streets from out of position. And if he’s passive enough to chase a draw like that, he’s probably be too passive to make a huge checkraise bluff when the draw missed.

If it’s a bluff it looks like he planned it from the beginning. But he didn’t play it like a bluff because he built such a big pot and he did it all while you showed such strength all the way down. Even the weakest players eventually realize that it’s not a good idea to get your opponent tied into a huge pot and then try to bluff him out with whatever money you have left. So the bluff possibility is pretty small.

Then what? Oh wait, I got it. I bet he has a set! I bet he limped in with a low pair and called a raise hoping to hit a set. I can see him slowplaying a set on a non-threatening board like the one we saw in this hand. Then the river brought a card that he hoped you would like (or that you would try to ACT like you liked if you happened to be bluffing) so he checked to you. So far it’s a plausible theory. Players use a lot of different betting strategies, but if it fits his betting pattern, it fits his style and it makes logical sense. He most likely has a set of 2’s, 4’s or 6’s. A set is the only hand that clears all the logical hurdles we’ve thrown out there so far. It’s not a sure thing, but it sure does make a lot of sense.

And that, my friends, is how you break a hand down.

And yes, I know this example might have been a little on the obvious side. You probably could have figured this out at the table in a couple of seconds. But the point is it shows you how to think about poker betting strategies during a hand. It shows you how to recognize betting patterns, how to interpret them and how to apply logic to narrow the range of hands down to something manageable. So when you do hit those situations that aren’t so obvious, you’ll have a place to start.

It’s never a guarantee you’ll be right in these situations, but if you think like this, you’ll be right more often than wrong. And being right more often than wrong is all it takes to win at poker. Now get out there and read some souls.