The first step of the REDi system to thinking through a poker hand is Reading, and the first step to hand reading is, well, to actually begin paying attention. You can’t figure out what the bad guy is holding unless you are looking for clues and watching what’s going on at the table.
Okay, fine, this isn’t earth-shattering news, right? We all know that we have watch the action before we can decide what the villain is betting into us with. Ah, yes, but you also have to pay attention even when you’re not involved in a hand. In fact, I’d argue it’s even more important to ensure you’re paying attention after you’ve folded your hand. Let me explain…
If you’re playing poker correctly, you’re folding most of the time. For example, at an average full ring table, you should be folding around 75-80% of the time. This is a lot of dead time. What are you doing during those 45 minutes out of every hour when you’ve mucked your cards? I hope the answer is: Watching the action.
It sounds simple, but one of the most important edges you have at the table is your awareness of what’s going on. Who just raked a big pot? Who’s stuck and trying to force the action? Who is ahead? Behind? Patient? Impatient? What bet sizings are your opponents using in different situations? Who is playing level-1, -2, or -3 poker? What range are you putting each player on in each hand? What line are they on? Are they playing a positionally-aware game or not? What range and line are they putting other players on? What are they saying aloud? What are they whispering to their neighbors? How are they reacting to the board cards? Are they showing their cards? If so, are they showing winning hands and/or losing hands. And so on…
Remember that poker is a game of incomplete information. This isn’t chess, where you see not only all of your opponent’s pieces, but also exactly what he or she has done every step of the game thus far. In contrast, poker is murky. Your opponents are constantly trying to hide information from you, and, in fact, are actively trying to deceive and mislead you. Look away and you might miss something vitally important that you can use later to make a good decision. After you’ve folded is the perfect time to really sit up and pay attention; you’re not involved in the hand anymore, so you don’t have the burden of trying to REDi your way to a +EV decision. Instead, you can use all that time to Read and Evaluate the other players’ actions, so the next time you have to Decide you can Implement correctly.
When you are involved in a hand, the ranges and lines you are able to put your opponents on depends entirely on your ability to analyze and ferret out what little truths you can from them. And 75% or more of that information is playing out when you’re not directly involved in a pot. Why are you ignoring it?
When you fold a hand, don’t stop playing poker. You’re still in the game, so act like it. Don’t look away, or check your texts, or chat with the waitress, or surf the web. Instead, focus on the other players still involved in the hand. Put them on ranges and lines. Guess their hands. Look for tells. Examine their bet sizes. See what they show down….
…and most importantly, continually ask yourself if you’re paying attention or not. If you’re not, get up, take a walk, and then come back focused and in the moment. If you don’t pay attention when not involved in a hand, you’re effectively saying that you’re so good that you don’t need 75% of the available information to base your decisions on. I’m not that good, and I’d be pretty surprised if you are.
Look, your opponents are paying attention; if you’re not, you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage to them.
Bottom Line: The Game is Not Over After You’ve Folded. In Fact, It’s Just Getting Interesting.
Exceptional Poker — Learn. Master. Crush.