In movies the key to winning at poker often is reading your opponent’s body language. “I don’t need to look at my hand, I saw you look at yours.” While you can’t make a living solely by noticing when a player reaches for his Oreos after he bets, every piece of information helps. And there is a surprising amount of information available from watching the other players even after you fold, especially in No Limit Texas Hold Em.
How Can I Read Hands in Poker Pre-Flop
You can start with whether the player seems comfortable or uneasy. Are their body and eyes relaxed or does the player seem stiff? Then see if you can find patterns in other players’ behavior, and notice when they deviate from those patterns. What did they do differently and why? Where are they looking? Be careful as well to distinguish how they act when the action is on them, while they are waiting for action and after they act. The same behavior may mean different things in each instance.
What are specific things to look for? Well start before the flop by watching other people look at their cards. How long does the player look at their cards? Players that see two Aces tend to keep their hand close to the table and put their hand back down quickly. There is an almost instinctive fear that other people may see their cards. Players looking at hands closer to the bottom of their opening range may lift their cards higher and perhaps look at them a split second longer.
Notice what the player does after they put their cards down. If the player looks at or touches their chips, that may mean they intend to play that hand. Notice how they look at or touch their chips. See if you can discern a pattern correlated to when they raise or call.
And definitely look to your left. The information about what people may do after you act is potentially more valuable since the players to your right will have acted before you. Notice if any of the players look at their hands before it’s their turn to act. If so, then watch them do so whenever you can. If you see that a player to your left is likely to call, you may want to play your drawing hand and see if there is a multi way pot, or raise to chase them out. If you see they are going to raise, you may want to tighten your range. If on the other hand, you can tell they are going to throw away their hand, you might play more aggressively.
These are a few basic concepts pre-flop. In the next part, we’ll talk about other things to pay attention to after the flop.