Reading your opponent’s betting patterns

Here, we discuss four telltale betting patterns to look out for in your opponents, and what to do when you see them:

Always checking the river

The most common pattern you’ll spot in a Hold’em game is checking the river.

You probably do this yourself. You’ve called before the flop, found yourself with a pretty good hand, so you bet the flop and the turn. But because the river didn’t bring you anything outstanding, you bottled it and checked, in case someone else had something better.

Catch an opponent doing this, and you’ve got every chance of bluffing them, seeing as they half-suspect you’ve got something good anyway.

Check-raising

This one is a classic. If a player check-raises on the turn, then bets on the river, it’s usually because they’ve got a pretty darn good hand. In fact, it’s probably the most common tactic in this type of situation.

They quietly call the flop, sneak in a check-raise on the turn then – as long as the river hasn’t thrown up any surprises – they bet again, outsmarting anyone who’s been foolish enough to call.

When you see the check-raise at the turn, definitely fold unless you have:

  • A bona fide monster (aka a first-rate hand) yourself
  • A draw to a better hand than your opponent is probably holding

Folding may not be as exciting as betting, but ignore this warning at your peril.

Folding on the flop

If you see someone who bets or raises before the flop, only to fold when he or she sees the cards, you can tell they’re a very careful player.

This is the kind of person who gets starting cards worth betting on, like a pair of jacks or an ace-king, but is fully capable of stepping back if the flop threatens it in some way.

Next time this player sees a flop and bets, you can assume they have a hand. Decide whether yours is strong enough to go up against it.

Try putting in a small bet. Your opponent will have missed the flop most of the time, so they’ll usually fold.

Call, call, raise

When an opponent calls the flop, calls the turn and then, out of nowhere, raises the river, it’s a sign they’ve got plans.

The other players feel that, since they followed their opponent to the river, they may as well call a final bet. What actually happens is they end up losing their stacks.

Don’t fall for it. Pay attention the next time an opponent changes gear on the river.