Reading the Board
Here is a simple exercise
that I recommend for new players. Take a 52 card deck, shuffle it
several times, and deal three cards face up. Pretend that you’re
looking at the flop in a game that you’re playing. Now, ask
yourself these questions: “What is the best possible hand?
What is the best possible draw? What did I have for breakfast?”
(Okay, you can scratch that last question. I was just checking to
see if you were paying attention.)
These are the things to look for:
Is the board paired? (A full house and quads are only possible if
the board is paired.) Are the cards all the same suit? (A flush
is only possible if there are three cards of the same suit on the
board or if you’re near a toilet—sorry, I’ll try
to be serious.) How wide is the gap between the cards? (If the gap
is wider than two cards between each card, a straight is not possible.)
For instance, let’s say the
flop is 10h 5d 2s. A rainbow flop like this (all different suits)
means that no one could have a flush or a flush draw (four of the
same suit). The best possible hand here is three 10s. The best draw
would be an open-end straight draw if someone is holding 3 4.
Go ahead and toss another card up
there. The turn is Ah. Now go through your same questions: Is the
board paired? No. Are there three of the same suit? No. Is a straight
possible? Yes. What is the best draw? If a player is holding the
Kh Qh or the Kh Jh, they have the nut flush draw and nut straight/straight
Now, let’s hypothesize that
you were in the big blind and were holding the 3 4. What card do
you not want to see on the river? Any heart, any Jack or any Queen
would be a scare card. (One of those cards could make a flush or
a bigger straight.) In addition, if the board pairs, a full house
is now another possible threat.
After you’ve gone through
that thought process, go ahead and toss another card up there. The
river is the 7d. What does this mean? It didn’t pair the board
(no full house or quads are now possible). There are no three cards
of the same suite (no flush is possible). No one could have a straight
higher than yours. So, in your hypothetical game you have the stone
cold nuts. Now you bet an amount that you think will get paid off.
Maybe it’s the farm; maybe it’s just a couple of hens
and a tractor.
Alrightythen, put those cards aside
and toss up another three and do the exercise again. Go through
the entire deck at least once. Do this every day for a month and
you’ll be reading boards like a pro.
Remember: flushes and quads and
full houses are easy to read. The majority of misread boards are
with straights, so be sure to look at the gaps between cards. A
straight board, like 7 8 9 K, is easy to spot, but what about 6
Q 9 5, 9 A 5 7, or 9 10 3 6.
You would be surprised by how many
people are unaware of those possibilities. Don’t be one of
them. Be sure and watch for my next article, “The Math: How
You Too Can Be a Mathter Poker Player.”
So until next time, remember
the number one thing in poker is to have fun and enjoy it. It’s
not whether you win or lose that counts; it’s whether
I win or lose.
Dr. Hope, J.A.P.D
(Just A Pretend Doctor)