There are many facets to reading hands. Two major ones being, you must know your opponent’s tendencies and get a line into their knowledge and thoughts. But even when you can do that effectively, you can seldom constrict your opponents range to a single holding. Instead you narrow it by relating each of his actions to his way of thinking.

Usually you end up with several different holdings your opponent may possess. And you can mathematically compare your opponent’s potential holdings against each other to determine the odds of each holding.

For example, if you can narrow your opponent’s pre-flop range to AA, KK or AK, there are 6 possible mathematical combinations of AA (AhAd-AhAs-AhAc-AdAs-AdAc-AsAc), 6 of KK and 16 of AK, of which 4 are suited. So in that case your opponent is 16-12 or 4-3 to have AK over a wired pair.

There are six combinations of every pair. If one of the rank hits the board, it reduces the combinations to three. In other words, if there is a 9 on the board, there are 3 possible combinations of 99 in your opponent’s hand. There are 16 combinations of every unpaired hand of which 4 are suited.

When one of the cards comes on the board, it reduces the combinations to 12. For example; when an ace hits on the board there are 12 combinations of AK still available to your opponent. If both an ace and a king come, there are 9 combinations of AK available to your opponent. If two Aces hit the board, there are 8 combinations of AK available. If you don’t understand this, write out the combinations available.

If you think the manner in which your opponent played a given hand leans more toward his possessing one holding over another, discount the lower propensity holding by the appropriate amount. If you think there is a 25% chance that your opponent would have played an AK differently, discount the combinations of AK in his range by 25%.

Those are the fundamentals to mathematically calculating your opponent’s ranges. Utilize it at the table and the numbers will eventually become second nature to you.

And your ability to read your opponent’s cards will dramatically improve

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