10 Essential Texas Hold’em Moves: The Soul Read

Reading souls at the poker table might seem like black magic but really it comes down to plain old hard work.

We’re here to tell you winning at poker isn’t all about fundamentals.

There are a handful of special moves that, when mastered, can make the difference between winning a little, and winning a lot.

In this ten-part beginner poker strategy series we’re going to show you exactly how to use these powerful poker moves to make more money.

Today we’re explaining the truth about soul reads.

What might look like a supernatural deduction akin to a fortune teller gazing into a crystal ball is actually a well-thought-out series of observations that lead to the correct decision.

We’ll show you how to make those big call downs with ace-high or bottom pair. It’ll not only impress the other players in the game, it’ll make you more money too.

The What: When people talk about making a soul read they’re referring to making a correct, yet very difficult decision, and doing it with a confidence that goes above and beyond the available info in the hand.

The When: The big call or the huge fold might be the hallmark of the soul read but really it’s a process that’s been going on from the very beginning of the hand. It begins as soon as you start assembling the pieces of the puzzle.

The Where: Soul reads can be made at any time in any poker game. When you nail your opponent on exactly what he’s holding and why he’s making certain actions, you are reading his soul.

The Who: To make a true soul read you need to know your opponent inside and out. What seems like an impossible deduction to the rest of the table is often possible because of what you know about your opponent and the history you’ve shared.

Daniel Negreanu
Daniel Negreanu is renowned for his ability to put players on hands.

Soul Reads Done Right

Understanding how to read souls is especially important because it relies on one of the most important skills in poker: Observation.

Poker is a game of information, and the winners are the ones who collect the most and assemble it the best to make correct decisions.

You must observe everything your opponents do, whether you’re in the hand or not. Seeing how someone plays their draws or how they behave when they flop the nuts is crucial to making that huge read when it really counts.

When you can make observations and compare that data to what you already know about your opponent’s playing tendencies, you’re ready to take the first step towards soul-reading.

You Must Read Hands Before You Can Read Souls

The easiest way to think about hand-reading in poker is to break down all possible hands into broad groups. Those groups are called “ranges”.

A range of hands contains all the card combinations with which a player would make the same actions.

For example, bottom set and top two pair are both strong hands and would fall into most players’ value-betting ranges. Ace-high and complete air, meanwhile, would be found in their bluffing ranges.

Remember, different players have different ranges. Top pair is enough for some players to get their whole stacks in with, while a good player would have no trouble laying down two-pair in the right spot.

Hands can be broken down into four basic ranges:

  • Monster Hands and the Nuts: These are hands that your opponent deems strong enough to bet or raise with, and has no problem getting all-in with. For most players a set or better is a monster.
  • Made Hands with Showdown Value: These are top-pair type hands that your opponent believes stand a strong chance of being the best hand but are probably not strong enough to play for stacks.
  • Draws: Flush draws, open-enders and combo draws that have a good chance of becoming the best hand but are not yet made.
  • Bluffs and Air: Hands that have no chance of winning at showdown.
Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey's the only person we know who literally looks into people's souls to see what they're holding.

Once you can reliably put your opponent on a range you’ll be able to make vastly superior decisions at the poker table.

Questions You Should Ask Yourself

There’s no shortcut to perfect hand-reading but there are a number of basic questions you should always be able to answer.

Ask yourself these questions when you’re deciphering your opponent’s actions:

  • What kind of player is he? Is your opponent loose or tight? Passive or aggressive?
  • Is he playing too many hands? The easiest way to tell if someone’s loose or tight is to watch how often they’re putting money in the pot. If someone is playing more than 20% of hands it’s safe to say they’re on the loose side.
  • Is he calling or betting/raising? If a player is constantly playing hands but you can’t remember the last time they bet or raised, it’s safe to label them a passive calling station. If a player is always taking the lead with bets and raises, label them aggressive.
  • What position is he in? Position is huge in poker and most people know it. The later the position the wider the range. The reverse is also true so give more respect to raises coming from early position.

Soul Reading in Action

If you still think soul reading is just an old wives tale, the stuff of legend, check out this video of WSOP bracelet winner Max Lykov.

The Russian defies all logic and makes an enormous call down with king high. And he does it with confidence.



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20 April 2008 1404