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What to do When Poker Reads Are Off | Helpful Strategies You Need to Know

I just want you to know something prior to moving forward. I shouldn’t write about something in the first paragraph that has nothing to do with poker reads, but I am me, and being me has gotten me where I’m supposed to be.

Hey! That was some “The Cat In The Hat” type sh*t right ayer, ay-ayer, ayer, ay-ayer. Never mind. It’s the music that’s getting me. The music! I’ll explain.

As I’m writing this article on my desktop, I’m watching Burning Man 2018 on my laptop. I see an amazing party in the desert. This includes laser lights shooting into the air in different directions, neon bicycles, people dressed in crazy outfits, and boobs. Yes, boobs. However, in this video, some boobs are blurred out while others aren’t. Boob Discrimination?

No big deal. I’m telling you about all of this because I want you to know what my work space is like: a desktop, a Bing (caffeinated beverage), and Burning Man.

Anyway, now that I have painted a picture for you, let’s get to the point. But I’m going to wager that you didn’t mind me opening the article the way I opened it? Good read?

PLAY FEWER HANDS

This is really freaking simple. Just apply logic. If your poker reads are off, it means you’re making bad decisions. If you play fewer hands, then you have fewer opportunities to make bad decisions. Not only that, while you’re out of these hands, you will be picking up information.

When you’re off in any competitive event, it’s simply due to your mind moving too fast. When you’re on the sidelines watching, your mind slows down. And there is a beauty about poker that is much more difficult to apply to sports.

In sports, it’s the timing of your mind and body that are off. In poker, it’s just your mind. All you need to do is refocus. For all you athletes out there, yes, refocusing can also lead to success in sports, but your mind really needs to sell your body on the notion that everything is back in rhythm.

I’m getting a little too deep here. If I keep going this route, I’ll end up writing about Circadian rhythm, fast-twitch/slow-twitch, and undercover aliens (I’d somehow work that in). So, let’s veer off this road and get back to the highway.

Simple Version: Play Fewer Hands!

Some of you are capable of reading those instructions and applying them. Others aren’t so disciplined. They look down at 69s and say to themselves: Oh my God! 69! Haha! I have to play it!

Two things there. One, I accidentally used ‘God’ and 69 in the same thought. My bad. Two, anyone who thinks this way is an idiot, especially if their reads are off. Even if we exclude the reads-off factor, what are you hoping to hit with 69s? The only way you win a big pot is with a miracle, and miracles don’t happen that often.

What are you going to do if you hit top pair and someone is betting into you?

Are you going to be comfortable with that kicker?

What if you flop an open-ended straight draw and someone bets half your chips?   

Now what do you do? Do you think this is a good spot?

What if you hit a flush on the river and someone keeps coming after you?

Do you think you have the best hand?

69 is a bad hand”…

Save that number for where it belongs, which isn’t at the poker table. Playing 69 just to play 69 is poor poker strategy. Sorry.

Let’s assume that you’re not disciplined and need direction. I’m here for you! I have saved many bad poker players from giving up on the game. They have since become winning poker players. I’m talking about at least a few hundred people, probably more that don’t contact me.

I don’t know what the hell I have to do to get other people to believe me. The toughest crowd is other poker pros. They like me, I like them. We have conversations. We might have a beer. But if I ever bring up SPATS, they just look at me like they have no idea what I’m talking about.

That’s because they already have their own poker strategy for tournaments. Some of them win with those strategies, and some win WAY more than me. But most of them lose. If players with their skill level, knowledge of the game, and reading ability applied SPATS, they would be extremely dangerous. So … I’m glad they don’t.

These Texas Hold’em Poker articles aren’t for them though. They’re for you. The player who is always looking to improve. The player who knows that even if they pick up one little thing from each article, they’re going to become stronger. If that’s you and you haven’t applied SPATS yet, I promise you that it works.

You can either read The Perfect Range (cash games) or wait until I’m done with SPATS 100 (poker tournaments) to learn more about it. Either way, what’s important is that it will force you to remain disciplined and play fewer hands. In short, it will keep you out of trouble. At the same time, you will remain unpredictable.

For instance, I played in an online poker tournament yesterday. Since I’m writing SPATS 100, I’m only playing certain hands (unless defending my Big Blind). I have established a TAG image. I don’t play many hands, but I’m aggressive when I play.

On one hand, I had 4h 3h on the Button.
UTG min-raised the BB and there were two callers.
Knowing the players in the blinds were on the passive side and anticipating folds/limps, I called.

Flop: 245.

UTG bet half the pot.
One player called.
Another folded.
I jammed (14 BBs).
UTG called with KQ. I have no idea so don’t ask.
I won the hand and doubled-up.

After the hand, two players hit the chat box to say they were surprised I played 43. That’s the point! smh.

So, maybe I’m more of a NIT With A Twist than TAG, but probably not. I play more hands than the average SPATS player, simply because I’m targeting players to play against based on their patterns. It’s not as cut and dry.

Regardless of whether you’re a NIT With A Twist, TAG, LAG, AGGRO, Maniac, or something else, if your reads are off and you want to fix the problem, apply SPATS. If you don’t want to do that and you’re playing online, I have an even simpler solution: Watch the Stats box and set a goal of seeing a maximum of 19% of flops.

If you apply SPATS and 19% at the same time, that is an ideal poker strategy for tournaments. Abandon 19% at seven-handed at the final table; abandon SPATS at four-handed at the final table.

PLAY LOWER STAKES

If you don’t want to apply any of that because you think I’m cuckoo, that’s cool. I like blazing new trails, and many people aren’t comfortable traveling down new trails because they don’t know what to expect. There could be snakes, pitfalls, and dragons. To me, that’s the fun of it. What is more exciting than adventure and new experiences? Win or lose. Just the way I look at it.

If you’re not into all that and just want a solution for bad reading ability, or your radar being off, move down a level in stakes. The players are usually going to be easy to read when you move down in stakes. I say ‘usually’ opposed to ‘always’ because sometimes you end up in an environment where they’re all bad players that have no clue what they’re doing.

If they don’t know what they’re doing, then you won’t know what they’re doing. Don’t play in that game unless you’re patient and willing to call all-ins with AK and JJ.

The game you want is the one where everyone values their money. That’s where you can trust your reads, apply pressure at the right times, and control the entire table. It always feels good to dominate. I like to dominate.

BUMP IT UP

Let’s say you don’t want to apply these SPATS or 19% poker tips and you want to stick to the same game you usually play in. That’s fine. I understand. You didn’t hurt my feelings. I’ll get over it. No big deal, you know. 🙂

If this is the situation and you’re seeking poker strategy for tournaments, the solution is beyond simple (once again). Bump up your pre-flop raises. If you increase your pre-flop raises, then you’re going to collect a lot more blinds/antes uncontested. You just need to find the right number for a raise based on the way the game is playing.

If you apply this poker strategy, it will get to a point where someone gets fed up and stands up to you. You have to realize that the more you raise pre, the less respect you’re going to get. This could lead to a situation where you’re 3-bet jammed when you’re holding AJs, and with the approach you’re taking, that’s a call. If you lose, so what?

You were going to lose playing it street-by-street anyway because your reads were off. If you win that pot, now you’re in control. You need to take that chance with AJs when you’re not playing well. Might be a call anyway. That depends on so many things: opponent playing style, chip counts, pre-flop action, where you are in the tournament, etc.

BORROW READS

There is another way to play this when your poker reads are off. It’s also one of the poker tips you will find in Poker Notes. If you have watched carefully, you might have noticed that I don’t promote Poker Notes. That’s because the information in that book is dated and I no longer approach the game the same way. That book was written years ago and I’m a much stronger player now.

However, there is some information in that book that can still be applied to Texas Hold’em poker, whether it’s cash games or poker tournaments. One of those things is to trust the reads of another player when your reads are off.

For example, let’s say the big stack at your table has been on fire with his reads all day. He’s in the zone. Now let’s say he’s in the hand while you’re in the hand and there are two other players in the hand as well. In most situations like this, you would evaluate and try to make the correct decision, but if your reads are off, then you don’t want to do that.

If you’re fortunate enough for the big stack to act before you and his reads are on, see what he does. Does he find those other two players to be a threat? If he folds after raising pre-flop, the answer is yes. When you have top pair/top kicker, you now might want to consider folding on that wet board. If the big stack calls, he might be seeking more information. You might want to follow. However, if you have top pair/top kicker on a wet board, you might want to raise to see where you stand. Your opponents will give you the answer.

That brings me to another point when your reads are off. If your reads are off, then it likely means you’re calling too much. When you’re calling a lot throughout a hand, it’s difficult to extract information. The only way you’re really going to find out more is by raising.

That might sound like only one option that you don’t like because it presents the risk of wasting chips, but there are different ways to raise. Yes, you can put in a standard raise, but you can also min-raise and check-raise.

When you min-raise, it looks weak. If one of your opponents holds strength and senses weakness, they will attack. When your opponents are weak, they might fold. If they call, it’s marginal or a monster.

When you check-raise, it looks very strong. The only way an opponent is staying in the hand when you check-raise is if they’re holding a monster. It sounds dangerous when you’re holding air or a marginal hand, but this game isn’t just about hitting cards, it’s also about gathering information. Check-raising at the right times is very powerful and +EV.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When your reads are off, it doesn’t mean automatic failure. You’re still in the game. You just need a game plan. I would first recommend applying SPATS. If you don’t feel like learning that simple poker strategy and you’re playing online with available stats, aim for seeing 19% of flops. This will slow you down.

If neither of those options pique your interest, move down to lower stakes, but make sure it’s a game with scared money. If you would prefer to stay in your game, or if you’re playing in poker tournaments, bump up your pre-flop raises. This takes the reading aspect out of it, for the most part. And if all else fails, trust another player’s reads, a player that has been zoning. There is no rule that you can’t borrow reads.

See you on the felt at the WSOP! One day….

♠ pokerjournal.org | Tyler Nals