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In his award-winning poker strategy book Super/System, Doyle Brunson famously said, Poker is a game of people. That’s the most important lesson you should learn from my book.” This old saying still holds up today, and it separates poker from every other casino game, turning it from simple gambling to a competitive sport.

Adapting to your opponents is one of the most critical things you must do to win in poker. You can’t just rely on having a good hand all the time; luck only matters in the short term. By taking your opponents into account when planning your strategy, you can win even without a good hand through well-executed bluffs.

It’s easy to see other players read each other over the table in live poker. However, many players don’t know that it’s also possible when you play poker online. If you’re one of those players and wondering how to read your opponents without seeing them, this poker guide is for you. It will outline several techniques to analyze and understand your opponents, even online.

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Analyzing betting patterns

Betting patterns are among the best ways to read your opponents without seeing them. By observing their actions at the table, you can find common habits and make generalizations about someone’s playstyle.

This is particularly important when you’ve folded. Many online poker players use the format’s convenience to take breaks between hands. While relaxing when tired is a good idea, you shouldn’t quit paying attention to the game. Folding actually means you can analyze your opponents even better since you no longer need to focus on your own gameplay, allowing you to watch your opponents freely.

Betting pattern examples: Bet size

Betting without variety is one of the most common mistakes among less experienced players. These players’ bet sizes may be appropriate for the situation, but they don’t have variety. Repeating the same bet size with the same kind of hand makes you incredibly predictable, allowing your opponents to easily guess what you’re holding.

Players usually size their bets according to the current size of the pot. The average small bet is around half the pot. A medium-sized bet is between 50 and 75 percent of the pot. A large bet is anything above 75 percent of the pot. Bets larger than the current pot size are known as “overbets.”

Knowing this information, you can group your opponents’ bets into the three main sizes to study them efficiently. If you’re up against a frequent continuation bettor, what size do they use? Does your opponent prefer small or large bets?

Those questions are good starting points, but the best information comes from seeing your opponent at the showdown. Once they reveal their cards, it recontextualizes everything about the hand. Did they only ever bluff with large bet sizes? Did they slow play a strong hand? By keeping track of your opponent’s actions through the game and looking at their hand during the showdown, you can get a better idea of their overall strategy.

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Betting pattern examples: Timing tells

Online poker’s streamlined nature is one of the biggest draws to the game. You no longer need to go through the hassle of counting chips, and there’s no need for a dealer since the site’s software handles everything. Decisions can be made with at a moment’s notice, and the game is significantly faster-paced.

All this convenience has one significant side effect. It’s easier than ever to bet, raise, or call, so some players simply stop thinking before they act. Newer players often make snap decisions driven by impulse, which you can easily take advantage of.

For example, you make a bet on the flop, and the player after you immediately calls it. This lets you know they didn’t even consider other options like raising or folding. Depending on their playstyle, this player likely has a drawing or weak hand they desperately want to make it to the showdown with. They couldn’t have a premium hand because if they did, they would likely have raised instead. A good response would be betting more on the turn and river to apply more pressure if they have a draw.

Poker tracking software

Finally, online poker actually has an exclusive method of player analysis: Poker tracking software. These programs analyze your game history, providing insights into your gameplay that you can’t see alone. By looking at the hands you play and the actions you take with them, the software provides valuable statistics that can be used to generalize your playstyle.

More importantly, the software does the same for your opponents. As you play multiple matches against the same people, the software keeps track of their behavior. The only caveat is that this tracking takes a lot of games to set up; the software is only allowed to use data from your matches. Still, poker tracking software is the best way to study your opponents online and is a huge reason people prefer the digital format.

Poker tracking software stat breakdown

Here are a few essential stats poker tracking software gives you, along with what they mean.

VPIP – Voluntarily Put Money in the Pot. This measures how many hands a person plays, essentially how tight or loose they are. Most players have a VPIP from 20-25 percent in six-max Texas Holdem. Anything higher or lower is notable.

PFR – Pre-flop Raise percent. This measures how often a player raises pre-flop. Most PFRs are around 4-6 percent from the VPIP. Using this together with VPIP can help generalize someone’s playstyle. For example, a low VPIP but high PFR is the textbook tight-aggressive player, rarely joining the pot but playing aggressively with their premium hands.

AG – Aggression Factor. This is a general description of how aggressive a player is, calculated with the formula (Bets + Raises)/Calls. The higher it is, the more aggressive the player is, and vice versa. Most players fall between 1 and 3; anything higher or lower is notable.

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Try using these techniques in your games!

In conclusion, reading your opponent while playing online is definitely still possible. If you aren’t used to these techniques yet, don’t worry. Practice makes perfect, so you should start playing poker games on your favorite site. There are many options for affordable tracking software, with some sites even offering it in-house for free.

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