You can learn a lot about someone else’s hand by looking at your own
Great no limit players are more concerned with what their opponent holds as opposed to their own hand. A lot of players, however, do not realize that there is a lot of information that can be gained from your own hand to help you put your opponent on an accurate range. A perfect example of this can be shown from a hand that I observed recently while playing a $5-10 uncapped game. The stacks were pretty deep in the hand with the two larger amounts being over $3000 and the smaller being about $1900. The hand started with one of the players with the larger stacks limping in under the gun. This guy was obviously a recreational player as he played almost half of all of his hands preflop. I also had seen him lose a mountain of money earlier when he could not get away from a flopped flush when it was pretty obvious that he did not have the best hand. A few people limped behind him and a relatively solid player with the other large stack raised to $60 from the cutoff. The small blind called as did the limpers making it a pot of $300 five ways. The board came out Q♥ 4♥ 7♥ and the action got checked to the preflop raiser. He confidently bet $225 and the small blind, a very solid, experienced professional raised to $700 with the $1900 stack. The under the gun player now snapped moved all-in. The action got back to the original raiser who took some time with it, asked to see the small blinds stack and finally called the all-in. The small blind followed suit and there was a massive pot. The board ran out blank blank and the hands were revealed. The small blind had a set of sevens, the under the gun had 9♥ 2♥ and the preflop raiser had J♥ T♥.
A friend of mine actually pulled me aside to talk about the hand and asked me if I would have called with just the jack high flush knowing that the small blind was very solid and that one of the two players could have had him beat. To be honest I was slightly taken aback by how quickly he called with the third nuts for that amount of money and facing that heat. However upon further analyzation I think that J♥ T♥ is an easy call in this spot and it does not have much to do with the pot odds.
The key to this hand is noticing the exact cards contained within the preflop raiser’s hand and accepting the fact that it is rare that players fast play a flopped nut flush. When we say that the small blind is a good experienced professional we can make some pretty accurate assumptions as to the hands that he will and will not play to a large raise from out of position. If I were to tell you that it was impossible for the small blind to have flopped a king high flush on this board can you figure out why? What exact hands might he call $60 preflop that contain a king high suit? KQ, KJ and KT are the only ones that are reasonable. Because the Q♥ is on the flop he cannot have KQ and most importantly because the preflop raiser has the J♥ and T♥ in his hand he cannot have KJ or KT. It is extremely unlikely that he is playing and smaller suited king so we can say with very high confidence that he cannot have a king high flush. Now, what about an ace high flush? Besides the fact that it is so rare for people to fast play the nut flush, even if this player did, we can look at the same type of card removal issues and examine his calling range preflop. With some frequency he is going to reraise A♥ K♥ preflop. He cannot have AQ, AJ or AT because of the board and preflop raiser’s hand so he would literally have to call with A rag suited of hearts AND fast play the flop. Those two things are possible but unlikely if both have to happen together.
However, there are 6 total combinations of sets of fours and sevens. This is a far more likely holding than the nut flush for the small blind in my opinion. J♥ T♥ is far ahead if the range for the small blind. And because the under the gun is playing so many hands coupled with the fact that he obviously has no concept of hand strength in deep pots J♥ T♥ is for sure a call here
Early street had reading coupled with card removal from noticing your own hand are powerful tools that great no limit players have mastered. It will take some practice but these concepts are not that difficult. Just make sure to pay attention to all of the action throughout the hand and realize that you can learn a lot of information about your opponents’ hand through noticing your own.