the skill of guessing your opponenet's poker hands
Poker is a game that requires constant focus and careful observation in order to be successful. Anything you can do to inform your decisions at the poker table can give you the edge you need to be a winning player. But it's not always easy to stay focused at the poker table. If you've been folding poker hand after poker hand it's easy to lose interest in the game. Unfortunately what this means is that when you do get a great poker hand, you may not be mentally prepared for it and you may make mistakes, losing more than you should or not winning as much.
The Guessing Game in Poker
A great way to stay focused at the poker table is to play the guessing game. Playing the guessing game means making an effort to figure opponents' hands when you are not involved in the action. Carefully observe the players in the pot and make a mental note of what you think they are holding. Be sure to revise your impression based on the play of the hand, but come to a final decision before the poker hands are revealed. You won't always find out whether or not you are right, since many hands are mucked without being revealed. You will see many pots played over the course of a session, however and in a good number of them the hands will be revealed to you.
The Overt Poker Benefits of the Guessing Game
Besides giving you something to do when you are not in a poker hand, the guessing game sharpens your observational skills. Those times when the hands get turned over will be very instructional. Either you will find out you are right and gain confidence and trust in your reads, or you will find out you are wrong and learn something from the experience. In some cases you will be able to put the table on hands without knowing specifically, for example one player has a flush draw and the other has three eights. Other times you may be able to put a player on a hand distribution: He's got a high pair, something between TT and AA. These kinds of predictions certainly count, and you may be able to refine your predictions even more as you get more proficient. Then you're easily able to calculate your poker hand odds and make the correct descision.
The Latent Poker Benefits of the Guessing Game
If you can guess the opponents' poker hands when you're not in the action, you should also be able to when you are. Although you may be distracted by the money at risk or the focus the other player has on you, your skill at the guessing game should leak through and make your reads in a hand even more accurate.
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