Friday, January 4, 2013

Hand Reading Olio

To kick start this last six-month run-up to the WSOP, I signed up for a month of training videos from yesterday and watched my first one while working out on the elliptical machine. Cardio/Card-io; Win/Win...

Anway, this first vid I watched was by Andrew "Foucault" Brokos, who is an informative Card Player writer, prolific blogger, and entertaining podcaster that I follow ( (As an aside, I just noticed that Brokos is now seated at my table in the WRGPT/Glaciers poker-by-email tournament. Sigh. He of course has a big stack, while meanwhile I'm dribbling away to nothing... but I digress.) Anyway, here's a quick recap of the video, which was on simplified MTT opponent hand reading.

First, the bad news. The video is really, really, really dry, and almost painful to watch. Brokos makes the classic beginning presenter's mistake of creating just a handful of text-only slides (only six actual content slides in the entire presentation!) and packs them full of dense bulleted lists. He then drones/reads each bullet point, and talks for many, many minutes on each slide. Despite the fact that the material itself was excellent, the presentation and deadly dull graphics caused my mind to wander repeatedly, and I found myself impatient for him to move from slide to slide*. Fewer words, less dense slides, more graphics, faster movement between slides, and some examples would have greatly improved the experience...

...and that is the extent of the bad news. The rest is good news. The material was really thought-provoking and useful. In this first video, Brokos categorizes your opponent's hands into one of three main types:
  1. Monsters. Very good hands that can expect substantial action from worse; worth multiple bets and often entire stack.
  2. Marginals. Good hands that can win at showdown in small pots, but can only beat bluffs in big pots.
  3. Draws/Air. Weak hands unlikely to win at showdown unimproved.
He then discusses typical actions that many players exhibit when holding each of these types of hands. This is  all useful stuff, but the real "a-ha!" moment I had was when Brokos said, almost in passing, that even if you can't categorize your opponent's range directly, you can likely remove one of these subcategories by process of elimination. In other words, you can effectively narrow an opponent's range, not by asking yourself what their actions indicate they hold, but rather by ruling out a category of hands. This is obvious in hindsight, but sometimes you need to hear the obvious from an external source to recognize/internalize it yourself.

The other interesting thing that occurred to me after watching the vid is that these opponent range categorizations Brokos advocates are essentially a simplified version the same ones that I recommend using when making the D-is-for-Deciding line decision in REDi (See this old blog post on equity, for example):

Anyway, I'm looking forward to Part 2 of this video series, but I'm REALLY hoping Brokos makes it a little less painful to watch.

All-in for now...
*In contrast, check out how poker coach James "splitsuit" Sweeney can convey similarly useful information in a MUCH more entertaining, visually stimulating, and engaging fashion; watch some of his vids here to see what I mean.
PS. In other news, I got a nice little shout-out in Memphis Mojo's blog, which is a site I visit regularly. When he writes about bridge, I'm almost always confused (probably because I haven't a clue how to play that game ;-) ), but I really enjoy his poker ramblings. Anyway, I wondered this morning why my visitor stats counter spiked overnight! Thanks for the bump, Memphis.


  1. Worthwhile blog. Maybe I'll see you in Vegas in June.

  2. You're on, Mojo. First beer is on me.