No Limit Texas Holdem and Learning to Read the Board


If you want to be successful at NLH, then one of the most important aspects is learning to properly read the texture of the board. Becoming proficient at this will in turn make you better at bluffing and taking down pots that do not otherwise belong to you. What do I mean by this? Let me show you.

First off, the mistake many people make when they set out to bluff is that they see their bluff strictly in terms of bet size. While the size of the bet you make can be important, it is not always the most important aspect. Reading the board and its potential for hitting other player’s hands is the most important thing when it comes to bluffing. Why? Because you cannot bluff someone who has the ‘goods’ or has hit their hand. Nor can you bluff someone you has a huge drawing hand, especially online.

Bluffing is telling a story and getting your opponent to believe it. What you have to learn to do is tell the story at the correct time.

For example, you are UTG with a hand like A-Q and you make a 3x raise. You get one call from a player in middle position and both blinds call. The Flop comes 9-3-2 rainbow. Lets go beyond the obvious ‘continuation bet’ that you might make here and look at how this flop might have hit other player’s hands:

The player in middle position likely has a pair or over-cards, that is why he called you. I would say third might be a suite connector type hand. The only hand he will probably call with if you make a bet is a middle pocket pair, so if our analysis is correct, you have a 2 in 3 chance that he will fold simply based on the fact that the Flop is so bad, it is unlikely to have helped his hand.

What about the blinds? The first possibility is that you are up against a pair of 9’s. If that is the case they are not folding at this point. If they have paired up the 2 or 3, it is unlikely they will call, fearing that you have a larger pair. Hence, this is a good board to ‘bluff into’.

What if you get a call?

Lets say that the BB calls you and everyone else folds. At this point, you are going to have to properly read the TURN to know how to continue in this hand. For example, if the Turn is a K, then that player in the BB will fear this card. If he was calling you with a pair of 9’s or something else, he will assume you hit the K if you bet it. Same goes for an Ace. However, if the Turn is a 5 or a 6, then your chances of being able to bluff here with your Ace-high are not very good. His hand, whatever it is, will still appear to be holding up, making this a tough board to bluff against.

You can see how reading the board correctly is much better than just firing out bets. Too many players just ‘know that they should bet’ and they don’t take into account why they are betting or what they may be betting against. Reading the board is a skill that you should work on long before you hone your skills at bluffing. If you do, you will be a much more profitable poker player.

Tomorrow’s post will deal with boards that you should NOT bet into in a bluff attempt and why.


  1. Great post and like how you went through the various hand possibilities of the other players who are in the hand. I will have to watch that more with my play.


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