You cannot consider yourself a very good poker player unless you are at least competent at reading hands. Hand-reading represents a gateway skill to advanced poker. Once you acquire this skill, at least to some degree, you can begin to play a few more hands profitably and start looking for the types of plays described below.
In Part II, we will look at the final group:
Avoiding Traps: Amarillo Slim Preston is fond of saying “All trappers don’t wear fur hats.” In fact, many of them wear eyeshades, poker jackets and sunglasses indoors. Poker traps come in an enormous number of disguises and nobody avoids them all. I will point out a few here that occur frequently.
Your aggressive opponent raises before the flop and gets a couple of callers. After the flop, they check to the raiser, who uncharacteristically checks! What is going on? Has he suddenly become timid? Did he miss the flop completely and just does not to waste a bet? Well, no. If he missed the flop, he would bet just in case the others missed as well, hoping they would fold. Instead, he has hit so much of the flop that he feels a need to check and either hope the others catch a second best hand, or that they bet into him so he can raise them on the turn for additional large bets. Remarkably, this ploy works frequently, which is why people keep doing it.
You limp in late with a hand like 98s. The flop comes Q88, there is a bet and call to you, you raise (good play!) and they call. Now the turn is a Q. They check to the raiser (you) and you bet. One of the players calls. Gee, what does he have? Does he have a pair like 99, and is calling in the hope that you were raising with nothing? Does he have an ace, and is calling hoping to get a split pot if you have an ace too, so you both have two pair with the same kicker? Well, no. Almost certainly he has a queen, and is sitting with queens full. He is afraid to check-raise the turn as he does not want to drive you out. When the river comes, he will either bet right out, or check again, hoping to get a check-raise. His choice depends on how he plays and what he thinks of how savvy you are.
Finally, a subtle example. You are in the big blind with J6 and get a free play in a 6-way pot. The small blind is an expert player. The flop comes 882, and everyone checks. The turn is an ace and everyone checks again. Now the river is a jack (giving you jacks and eights with an ace. The pro bets from the small blind. Should you call, raise or fold? Most players will call here, figuring the pro has a jack, and they will be splitting the pot. But in reality, …