How not to fail miserably
Let me give you a very good example on how, if you only read into a player’s postflop stats, you can fail miserably. Let’s say you play the floating game. Let’s say you see an opponent is c-betting 80% of flops and gives up on the turn a reasonable amount, so floating in position becomes profitable; just call and then bet on the turn when checked to. But let’s analyze two different situations in this sense.
1) You’re calling an EP raise from the Button We’re going to take decent reg stats and crunch them into our system. An EP raiser has about 10-12% raise, so usually he does AQo+, AJs+ or ATs+, KQs, KQo, and pairs, either all of them or 77+, some of them open QJs, JTs, T9s or small suited aces. This being so, their EP opening range is much stronger and overcard and overpair-heavy, so he’s bound to have a lot more value in his range than, let’s say, when open-raising from the SB. He might even c-bet 100% on some boards when opening EP, so reading into the general C-bet stat is irrelevant.
2) You’re calling his SB open-raise from the BB He’s opening a normal 40-50% from the SB, so he should usually hit a lot weaker pairs, hit draws a lot rarely, and have less overcards to the board. That’s why his equity has diminished a lot, and he might not be C-betting as much as you think, leaving your well-thought move of floating the flop to take it away on the turn to your detriment.
One of the big secrets in poker is that knowing your opponent well is a bigger advantage than the strength of your hand. Did you see Phil Ivey move in with 52o preflop against Lex Veldhuis? It was because he knew that it was a profitable move and that Lex was able to re-raise bluff with a deep stack often enough for his move to become profitable. Luckily, you’re playing online, and you don’t need a mind like Ivey’s to succeed in this. You just need to be able to read a few stats efficiently, and be able to make competent decisions based on those exact stats.
Now that you know some of the pitfalls of misreading postflop play, it’s time to reap the benefits and start soul=reading some opponents. Playing perfect ABC poker will only get you as far as marginally beating some lower limits, but the real hassle begins when you start playing against decent players who have an idea or two on how to read you, and then the meta-game begins.
Is he reading my high flop raise percentage and is floating me just to take it away on later streets? Should I barrel this A scare-card turn or does he know I do it every time and will call me down with pocket deuces?
Be careful though, you might level yourself to the point of over-thinking the hand, ignoring the fact that your opponent might hit a strong hand a reasonable amount of the time, and suddenly you find yourself barreling into the nuts. But if you find that he calls you down with JsJc on 7s4s2cAd2d for three barrels , or just two of them and checks back the river, the opponent sees you as a decent reg who can C-bet a lot of scare-card turns, and he also probably had a good read on you, right ?
How to succeed vigorously
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Sun Tzu
After you learn how to read an opponent efficiently, and do this again and again and again in different situations, you’ll see that they start repeating themselves, and eventually you’ll have that subconscious competence, you’ll be like Neo inside the Matrix! This transformation, at first, will be unnoticeable and so effortless, that it will feel like swimming in a pool after you’ve crossed the Atlantic with your hands behind your back.
When you notice this, you’ll go up to the higher limits, where you’ll find a lot of Agent Smiths that morphed with the Oracle, and that’s when the hard part ensues and you really put your limits to the test, stats start mattering less and less, and reads become useless because their game is so GTO that they’re almost not exploitable. But there is a solution to this. Never sit at a table only with regs. Find tables that also have weak players on them. Also, there is no GTO-perfect player, I can assure you. Even Tom has leaks in his game, or Isildur1, as already proven by Brian Hastings.
For example, I was playing a Full Ring table and then it broke, leaving me and this other guy playing HU. He was playing the exact same hands as he was playing at FR! I capitalized on that by raising every time preflop, C-betting every flop and then if I didn’t have a strong holding, just letting it go. I managed to pull ~200ish blinds from that guy until he gave up. He did not adjust AT ALL.