If you’re a serious Hold’em player, you probably want to improve your game as much as possible. One of the best ways to sharpen your skills is to learn how to read the board. When you’re able to quickly and easily read the community cards, you’ll have an edge over the casual players.
“Reading the board” simply means that you look at the community cards and figure out the best-possible hand. If you know which hands could exist, you know where yours stands. This helps you decide if you should bet, raise or fold when it’s your turn to act.
If you’re holding A-A before the flop, then you have the best-possible hand right now. No two hole cards are better than pocket aces, so you should bet or raise accordingly.
However, your situation could change on the flop. Let’s say, for example, that the first three community cards are:
A-3-9 (rainbow – no matching suits).
If this is the case, then you have a set of aces. Right now, you have the nuts (poker slang for the best hand). You know that nobody else’s hand beats yours right now, so you can act accordingly.
Let’s say that the turn card is a 7. Now the board looks like:
If two of the cards are the same suit, then an opponent could be drawing to a flush. This hand would beat yours, but nobody has made a flush yet. You still have the nuts, so you can put in a large bet. This often chases away anybody who is drawing to a flush. However, people with two pairs could call or, better yet, re-raise.
Now, let’s say that the river card is a jack. The board reads:
You still have a set of aces, as your hand has not improved. However, somebody else could have a straight. If another player is holding 10-8, then your set loses. And if three of the cards on the board are the same suit, your hand loses to the flush.
You can, however, try to get a read on anybody else who’s still in the pot. Trying to put an opponent on a hand (figure out what he or she is holding) can help you make the right decision about your own cards.
If you practice reading the board, you’ll soon be able to figure out the best-possible hands in just a couple of seconds. Having this skill in your poker arsenal will help you make better decisions at the table, which will lead to better sessions and more fun.