Understanding the Range of Your Opponent in Poker

Poker is a card game with a lot of chance but it also requires skill, psychology and game theory to win. Players make decisions throughout the hand, which determines their long-term expectations in a given situation. While luck plays a significant role in each individual hand, players should always base their decisions on probability and game theory.

In addition to deciding what to do with their own hands, it’s important to understand the range of your opponent and how much they’re willing to risk on later streets. This can be a very complex process, which needs to take into account previous action, stack depth and pot odds, but mastering it will improve your overall profitability.

The best way to get a feel for an opponent is to watch them play. Some of this information can be gleaned from subtle physical tells like scratching the nose, playing nervously with chips or staring at their cards, but a lot can be learned by watching their betting patterns. Players who bet frequently and aggressively tend to have strong hands. Similarly, players who call often and rarely raise their hands have weaker ones.

When you have a strong hand, it’s important to bet aggressively to build the pot and chase off other players who may be waiting on a draw. This is one of the primary reasons why top players fast-play their strong hands – they know that if they don’t, they could end up losing a lot of money to weaker players.