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Real Poker: A Tough Read

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Dec 20, 2017


Much is written about analyzing an opponent’s range by addressing the plausible combinations and comparing the odds of each against each other. And while this is an effective system, it needs to be fused with your knowledge of your opponent’s thinking and emotional state, which can change their range dramatically. Correctly analyzing those spots is something that is hard to learn from a book. Knowing your opponent’s knowledge range, the range he deems is strategically correct to play, plus his thought process, his emotional reactions and his tendencies will create clearer reads. And clearer reads lead to better play choices.

I’d been playing fast in a solid $20-$40 limit hold’em game. I’d picked up a few small pots and was up a few hundred when Doran, a solid regular, limp-opened three off the button. Doran’s limp-open play choice appeared out of character to me. Standardly, he would raise-open in that spot. The field folded to the small blind, who flatted, and I peered down to the AClub Suit 5Diamond Suit in the big blind.

I thought about making an aggressive play, raising to increase my post-flop fold-equity. Raising would represent a strong range to aware opponents. Additionally, since both my opponents had represented a weak range, my hand might win unimproved as well as have good equity to make the best hand. However, amongst other things, making aggressive plays with hands containing an ace, tends to decrease your post-flop value when you hit an ace, decreasing the value of all plausible pre-flop raise scenarios. I thought raising and calling were close and chose to knuckle and see the flop.

I flopped second pair when the 6Heart Suit 5Club Suit 2Diamond Suit hit and fired. Doran called as did the small blind. The turn card was the JSpade Suit, and I fired again, not wishing to give a free card on a low uniform board. Doran called, and the small blind folded. Unless I improved, I was planning on checking the river. Doran’s river calling range would be stronger than my current holding, and by checking I might be able to pick off some bluffs or get a better hand to check.

To my joy the ADiamond Suit hit on the river, rendering me aces-up. Now, pretty sure I had the best hand, I fired. To my surprise Doran raised. Confused, I tanked. What made sense? What value-range would he raise the river with? Would he raise as a bluff?

The fact Doran didn’t raise preflop made me think he likely had a volume hand, one he wanted multiple customers to improve his preflop price. Additionally, he had flatted the flop and the turn on a uniform board with a player to act behind. Either he had a hand strong enough to trap with, the river had improved his hand or he was bluffing. If he had a hand strong enough to trap with and value-raise the river I was beat. If the river improved his hand, I beat most of that range. However, if the river improved his hand that means he limp-opened in late position with an ace in his hand, a non-standard play for Doran. And while he may have those texture hands, I thought it improbable.

Could Doran be bluffing? I think he could. And that thinking made sense. Doran is an aware opponent who would have noted that I had been playing fast and won a few pots without being called. That would have made a river raise-bluff more established in Doran’s mind.

Getting 8:1, I called. Doran turned over the ASpade Suit AHeart Suit. He had flatted with aces pre-flop, called my turn and river bets, and made three aces on the river. He had been making a trap play. I tossed my hand into the muck.

I had put in a lot of money drawing very thin! And when I do that, I reflect back about my thinking. Did I read it right? Obviously not. But it was a deception play by Doran and a hard to read situation. Not a miss-read to beat myself up about.

All that noted, was the rest of my thinking reasonable? I think it was; it was just that my opponent was at the top of his range in a scenario in which he had me all trapped up. As long as my reasoning makes sense in hindsight, I recognize that there will inevitably be times when I realize the worst EV segment of the plausible range of scenarios.

Even though I was lost in the hand and lost the pot, I was happy with my thinking. I had thought through the scenarios in a tough to read situation, thought about my opponents knowledge, texture, emotions and tendencies, and was comfortable with my logic. And that’s all I can ever ask of myself, to put forth my best solution with my best knowledge I have at the time, knowing I’ll often be wrong.

But that’s why they call it gambling. ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!