Top-7 Signs You’re Facing a Poker Pro

Nathan  «BlackRain79»  Williams
27 May 2024
Holdem Strategy
27 May 2024

Hey everyone, Nathan here. Today, I'm going to share the top-7 signs that you're facing a poker pro. If you notice anyone doing these seven things at your poker table, it's likely you're up against a professional. Let's dive in!

Sign #7: Getting Three Streets of Value vs the Fish (every single time)

One of the absolute keys throughout my career as a professional poker player has been extracting maximum value from recreational players, also known as "fish." Let me give you an example to illustrate this.

Imagine you raise with Ace of Hearts and Jack of Clubs, and a recreational player calls. These are the types of players who will play 50% of all hands dealt to them. They play for fun, often just on weekends, maybe having a beer or watching a game simultaneously, etc. They don't take the game as seriously as you do, watching videos like this to improve. They just play games for fun.

The flop comes down Jack of Diamonds, Eight of Spades, and Five of Spades. You bet, and they call — pretty standard so far. With the top pair and top kicker on a board with multiple draws (like 9-10 for an open-ended straight draw, or 6-7 for another open-ended straight draw), this is a crucial spot.

Poker pros never leave money on the table, and consistently getting three streets of value from these situations is what sets them apart.

There are multiple draws on this flop. For example, 9-10 has an open-ended straight draw, and 6-7 also has an open-ended straight draw. There are also numerous potential pair hands that this kind of player can have. Remember, this player is playing 50% of all hands dealt to them, so they can easily have hands like Jack-10, Jack-9, Jack-7, Jack-6, or even Jack-4. Recreational players play all these hands. They could also have a hand like Ace-8, King-8, Queen-8, Ace-5, 8-7, 5-6, or 5-3. The list goes on and on. 

Fish will play all these hands, so you just want to make a value bet here. 

The turn comes down with the Three of Hearts, a totally harmless card — what we call a brick. You definitely want to be betting here again. This card does not complete any of the draws. I should mention there's also a flush draw on the flop (though it’s a heart, not spades), and the turn card doesn’t complete that flush draw either. So, this is another standard spot. You bet on the turn, and they call. Let's go to the river.

The river brings the King of Hearts. This is where many people get confused and hesitant, thinking, "Oh, this lucky fish must have hit his King on the river." But as we’ll discuss further, the key mistake here is putting someone on a specific hand rather than a range of hands. Yes, a small percentage of the time, our fishy friend is going to spike the King on the river.

But guys, remember all those hands we discussed earlier — all the broken draws, the worse pairs like Jack-10, Jack-9, Ace-8, and 5-6. These hands are still going to call us on the river. That's why it's a monumental mistake not to make another bet here. Versus a player like this, who is likely to call, you should never leave money on the table. Always aim to get three streets of value: bet the flop, turn, and river against the fish, and you'll have much more success.

Sign #6: Hand Reading (Range Analysis)

Alright, let's move on to hand reading and the importance of range analysis. As serious poker players, we need to focus on ranges, not specific hands. Putting someone on a specific hand is the stuff of Hollywood movies. Here's an example to illustrate:

You have Ace of Hearts and King of Spades in early position, and a tight player calls you on the button. What kind of range can we put this player on at this point? 

Version number one: this is a tight player, so they’re not going to be playing 50% of all hands like our fishy friend from the previous example. I would put this player on a range that includes pocket pairs from Jacks down to Twos. This means pocket Jacks, pocket Tens, pocket Nines, all the way down to pocket Twos. They might also be playing strong broadway hands like Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack, Ace-Ten, King-Queen, King-Jack, Queen-Jack, and a couple of suited connectors like Ten-Nine of Hearts or Nine-Eight of Spades.

Now, you might notice that a couple of very important hands are missing from this list, such as pocket Aces, pocket Kings, pocket Queens, and Ace-King. Why did I not include these hands in this range? This is how modern hand reading works, guys. The reason those four hands are excluded is that we would expect a player like this to re-raise us pre-flop with these strong hands.

Remember, we're using all the information we gather during a poker hand. Since this tight player just called, we can immediately narrow their range down to the hands listed earlier and discount hands like Aces, Kings, Queens, and Ace-King because we assume they would have re-raised us pre-flop most of the time.

This is how poker pros analyze situations and put someone on a range of hands, not just a specific hand. As we progress through the hand, that range will narrow depending on the player type and the actions they take.

Sign #5: Never Getting Too High or Too Low

Alright, let's move on to sign number five that you're up against a poker pro: they never get too high or too low.

Let me give you a simple sports analogy. I'm from Canada, so you might already assume that I'm a big hockey fan, and you'd be correct. Go Canucks, go! One cup before I die! In the Stanley Cup playoffs, which are a two-month ordeal where you win and lose a lot of hockey games (hopefully more wins than losses), there's a common saying you hear from the best professional NHL players: "Never get too high when you win and never get too low when you lose".

This, in a nutshell, is what poker is all about. Let me give you an example:

  • Day one: You win $500. Who cares?
  • Day two: You lose $300. Who cares?
  • Day three: You lose $400. Who cares?
  • Day four: You win $1,000. Who cares?
  • Day five: You win $200. Who cares?

This is how professionals think about poker. They don't throw a party when they win, and they don't get depressed and assume the game is rigged when they lose. They understand how to keep an even keel. They know they'll have many winning and losing days. 

The goal is to have more winning days than losing ones.

Poker is an endless roller coaster, and you absolutely have to make peace with this if you want to achieve large-scale success in this game.

Sign #4: Hammer on the Weak Players

Alright, let's move on to sign number four that you might be facing a poker pro: they hammer on the weak players.

So, you already know that you should be raising and re-raising pre-flop with strong hands like pocket Aces, pocket Kings, pocket Queens, pocket Jacks, and Ace-King. But what many people fail to realize is that there's a lot of money to be made by targeting weak players who are prone to folding, and luckily, there are plenty of them in today's games.

These players are cautious and reluctant to risk all their money unless they have a really strong hand. And as you know, strong hands don't come around very often in poker. So, occasionally, you want to apply pressure by light three-betting them before the flop with hands like 9-8 suited, for example.

Why do we do this? Firstly, we're targeting a specific player type — those who fold too much. If you're using a Heads-Up Display (HUD) in online poker, look for players with a 70% or higher fold to three-bet percentage. If you're playing live poker without a HUD, look for weaker players who consistently play it safe.

Another reason to choose hands like this is because they have a lot of post-flop potential. A hand like 9-8 suited can hit straights, flushes, two pairs, trips, and various other strong combinations that can potentially beat a big pair like pocket Kings.

If you want to elevate your game, you need to learn to identify weaker players at the table and consistently apply pressure on them in all situations—pre-flop, flop, turn, and river.

Sign #3: Pay Attention to Your Position

Moving on to sign number three that you're up against a poker pro: they pay close attention to their position.

Let's talk about positioning at the poker table. As you can see in the image on your screen, not all seats at the poker table are created equal. The vast majority of your profit in poker is going to come from the cutoff and the button. The button is the seat with the dealer chip in front of it, which I'm sure you're familiar with, and the cutoff is the seat directly to the right of that.

The reason why the vast majority of your profit comes from these two seats is because you get to act last on the flop, turn, and river. This is a statistically proven advantage because you get to see what your opponents do first, and then you get to react to them. It allows you to get more value bets in, execute more bluffs, and even fold your hand and save money if you believe you're beaten.

So, what's the solution here? All professional poker players know that you should be playing many more of your hands, the majority of your hands, from these two seats at the poker table. If you're curious about which hands I suggest playing as a professional poker player, I have charts and diagrams in my free poker cheat sheet that show you exactly what hands to play.

Sign #2: Just Call vs Aggressive Players

Moving on to sign number two that you're up against a poker pro: they just call versus aggressive players.

Many amateur poker players make the mistake of getting frustrated when faced with an aggressive player constantly trying to bluff them. As we discussed earlier with light three-betting, this is the style I play and teach — constantly applying pressure. 

The mistake people make is trying to fight fire with fire by bluffing back.

That's not the correct strategy, guys. When facing an aggressive player, you just want to flat call instead, especially when you're in position (remember, the cutoff and button). You want to outplay them after the flop and give them the rope to do what aggressive players love to do — bluff.

For example, let's say you have two red nines on the button and a loose, aggressive player raises. What should you do? Just flat call. If you go for the three-bet in this spot, it opens the door for them to re-raise and put you in a tough situation where you're risking a lot of your chips with a good but still mediocre hand like pocket nines. 

So, the more profitable option here is to just call, especially when you're in position, see a flop, and look to outplay your opponent by letting them bluff.

Sign #1: Visualize Success

Alright, let's move on to the number one sign that you're facing a poker pro: they visualize their success. I used to do this quite literally. I would put my winning poker graph, which you can get from a Heads-Up Display (HUD) program (I'll link the one I use in the description below), and I would visualize my success. 

I would literally get my winning poker graph and set it as the wallpaper on my desktop computer or laptop. So, every time I looked at my screen, I had to confront the reality that I am a winning poker player over the long run. This helped me avoid getting frustrated by the routine ups and downs of the game, as we discussed earlier. It allowed me to stay focused on the long run and visualize my long-term success in this game.

Another thing that helped me tremendously is when I finally learned to simply turn off the haters. You need to understand that 80% of people lose at poker over the long run. And as I always say, poker is a lot like driving — pretty much everyone thinks they're either really good at it or at least better than others. So, we have two forces coming together: most people will lose, yet everybody has a massive ego in this game.

So, what happens? A lot of people become jealous, angry, and quite frankly, they despise you for your success. They'll say things at the poker table, on the internet — everywhere. I've seen it again and again over the years. But the best poker players in the world, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, they do not care what other people think about them. They tune out the haters and stay focused on the next hand.


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