It All DependsYou’re playing limit hold’em at one of the many online poker hangouts and have a pair of tens in late position. A player in early position raises, two players to his left call, you call and the blinds fold. The flop comes J-8-4 and almost instantly after the cards have been revealed, the preflop raiser bets. The other callers fold. What do you do?
As can be gleaned from the title of this article, it all depends. Clearly the swiftness of his wager tells you that he was going to bet regardless of the flop. If he is a strong player he could easily have AKo and is trying to freight-train his way into a pot, hence a raise on your part may be in order. But if he is a weak player, he would need a strong hand to come out so aggressively and probably has an overpair, top pair with an A kicker or even a set. In this case it’s probably best to fold.
So how do you know if he’s a shark or a guppy? By profiling him.
With the advent of online gambling came the ability to write detailed notes on the other players in real time. These player profiles are invaluable for tracking a player’s tendencies and abilities.
While online poker is a group game played against oftentimes faceless opponents, you cannot assume that each one of them plays the same way. As obvious as that sounds, many people play the same hand the same way against different people. Player profiling is the single biggest improvement most novices can make to their game.
Many online poker establishments have the ability to take notes built right into their software. But even though it is extremely convenient to right-click on a player to make notes, Notepad makes a competent substitute if the poker software doesn’t have this capability.
Another feature of many card rooms that is invaluable in this regard is having access to a hand summary. By requesting the history of a hand, you will be presented with a report showing all actions that occurred during the hand. But the real jewel in this report is that it uncovers the mucked cards after a showdown. It’s very powerful to be able to see who was bluffing on the turn or who cold-called before the flop with J8o, especially if you note this information in each player’s respective profile.
Typically I keep track of a player’s preflop looseness and the hands he raises with, his aggressive or passive tendencies after the flop with different types of hands, in what situations he bluffs, how easily he folds, and what the size of his bets mean when playing pot-limit or no-limit.
You don’t need to capture a player’s every move for his profile to become useful. But log enough detail so that the next time you find yourself in a pot against him, you’ll have a better idea of what he holds and what you need to do to win.