Reading hands and situations is a skill that can be mastered only by practice and experience. Over time, you can read many players because they fall into patterns and become predictable. For instance, some players raise before the flop only with strong hands like AA, KK, and AK.
These players reveal too much information about their playing styles to their opponents by always playing this way.
What you must constantly look for is betting patterns. Many players bet the same type of hands the same way every time. If you can pick up on their patterns, it will improve your game tremendously.
Many players, when on a draw, will call bets on the flop and turn. Then, they will always raise on the river when they hit their hand, and check or fold when they don't. One lesson to be learned from this tendency is to occasionally vary your own play so an opponent can't easily read your hands. Usually making a play that is contrary to your normal playing style is only necessary about 5 percent of the time to keep your opponents guessing. This, however, is only necessary in a game with opponents who are paying attention. Poor players rarely notice anything you do out of the ordinary, so just play simple straightforward poker against them.
As you become more experienced, you will learn to read situations and know what is going to happen. A common example of this is when you have a top pair and a good kicker or two pair on the flop, which contains two cards of the same suit. You bet on the flop and are called. You bet again on the turn and are called. Then on the river the third card of a suit hits making a flush possible. After you bet again, the person who had been calling raises you. In low-limit Hold'em, this means a flush will beat you almost every time. The only time you may not be beaten is when a solid player feels that you are capable of laying down a good hand for one bet and is bluffing you because of the scare card. This is often not the case. Situations such as this are learned with experience. So practice, practice, practice.
Another reason it is important to pay close attention to the game is so you will think back about how a hand has been played to the present. Did anyone raise before the flop? If so, who raised? Has someone who has been checking and calling suddenly raised? You need to answer these questions in order to recognize and read situations at the poker table.
Poker is a thinking man's game. In our final section, we will stress the importance of thinking on many levels.