Poker’s most important skill, situational awareness, is often overlooked. Knowing what’s happening around you gives you a strategic advantage.
Observe table dynamics
The first key to strong awareness is constantly observing the actions and behaviors at your table between hands. Take note of:
- How players react to pre-flop raises. Who 3bets light? Who only continues with premium hands? Your opponents’ range is shown here.
- Post-flop betting patterns. Which players lead aggressively? Who floats passively? Players’ styles are shown here.
- Stacking off tendencies. Do players spew chips? Or are they nitty and only stack off with the nuts? This is essential to know.
- Opponents’ reactions after big hands. Do they tilt and play looser? Or tighten up? You exploit these tendencies.
- Any chat dynamics. Is table talk revealing information? Are players on tilt and venting? Conversation provides important tells.
Make it a habit to observe everything happening at the table, not just when a hand is being played. The intel you gain will prove invaluable.
Profile player types
Use your observations to categorize opponents into player types like:
- Calling Station – Passive player who calls too widely. Easy to extract value when you have strong hands.
- Maniac – Hyper-aggressive player who spews chips and bluffs relentlessly. Can be exploited by trapping.
- Nit – Extremely tight and passive player. Ideal target for light bluffs and steals.
- TAG – Solid, thinking player who balances aggression with selectivity. Requires balanced counter-strategy.
- Fish – Recreational player who makes many fundamental errors. You want to play many pots with them and capitalize on mistakes.
- Shark – Skilled, thinking pro who plays bandarqoptimal strategy. Need to pick optimal spots carefully against them.
Profiling players gives you an instant strategic blueprint against them.
Track playing tendencies
Don’t just profile opponents once. Constantly update your reads as you accumulate data:
- Note pre-flop raise frequencies from each position. If someone only opens 15% of their hands in the cutoff, their range will be wider than typical.
- Track continuation bet frequencies by position on different board textures. It shows you their hand ranges when betting.
- Note sizing tendencies. Does a player usually bet large for value and small as a bluff? Size betrays hand strength.
- Watch how often opponents float boards. Some players float relentlessly while others hardly ever. Hand ranges are revealed by floating behavior.
- Observe opponents’ reactions to getting bluffed. Who falls for bluffs easily vs. who always calls? Their tendencies show how freely you bluff them.
Continuously update stats like these for each opponent. You’ll know exactly how to play against them as your hands develop.