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Asking the Right Questions | ‘The Hand Reading Lab’ Part 8 | Podcast #82


Sky Matsuhashi

on July 20, 2016

I discuss the importance of asking great questions when studying and when playing poker.  Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


The Hand Reading Lab

In case you missed episode 80, I showed you how to count poker hand combos to aid your mathematical understanding of the game and the ranges of your opponents.

Podcast Mission (3:30)

My mission for today is to teach you that the quality of your poker education is a result of the quality of the questions you ask. I’ll give you some great questions to ask yourself when hand reading your opponents, as well as spur you to start asking better questions to help you understand your opponents and their actions.

Asking the Right Questions (4:05)

The most important question you could ever ask yourself in poker: “Why?”

  • Why did he check behind?
  • Why did he c/r?
  • Why is he such a nitty player?
  • Why is he such a crazy LAG donk?
  • Why does this guy just call and call and call every single street?

The question, “Why?” helps you to dive in and understand your opponent.  Everyone has a logical reason for the things they do (logical to them).  Your opponent might think it’s completely stupid to raise before the flop with anything but AA and KK.  You of course don’t see things this way, but you’ll come across many players who do.  The key to exploiting your opponents is to understand their own personal logical reasons for doing what they do.

If we only assign our logical choices to our opponent’s decisions, then our understanding of our opponents will be missing some critical bits of info, and we might mis-play our hand because of that.

The best time to ask these “why” questions are during hand history reviews.  This is where you can take the time to dissect your opp’s choices and use their tendencies and show down hands to help you understand the logic they’re using.  The more you do this off-the-felt, the more readily the answer to the “why” question will come to you when you’re playing on the felt.

“He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning.” – Danish Proverb

I agree with this.  Curious people learn the most in life and they’re also the ones who improve the fastest.  These people aren’t just curious about others, but about themselves as well.  “Why” questions are great to understand your own play and psychology as well your opp’s:

  • Why did I tilt?
  • Why did I 3bet shove OTB w/18bb’s?
  • Why did I c/f when I know that a c/r would’ve been a great play?
  • Why didn’t I cbet IP on that A high board?

Questions from ‘The Hand Reading Lab'

What’s the worst _______ he’d open here?

When you’re thinking about somebody’s opening range, it can be divided into four specific categories: pp’s, broadways, suited connectors and other hands.  A great way to help you build this range is to ask which hand is the worst within each category that he’d open.

If the worst pp he’d open is 88, then logically he’s opening 99, TT and so on up thru AA.

Maybe the worst broadway he’d open is QTs, then we know he’s opening KTs and ATs as well as QJs.

If the worst sc he’d open is 86s, then he’s opening every two-gapper up thru AQs and every suited-connector 76s and better.

And if the worst other hand he’d open is KJo, then he’s also opening KQ and AJ, but staying away from QJo.

Knowing the worst helps us understand the rest and it eliminates lots of hands from his range, thereby making hand reading just that much easier.

How often will they fold to a 3bet?

This is a great question to check the profitability of making a 3bet bluff.  Let’s look at the math on a very common cash game scenario: 1.5bb’s in the pot from the blinds.  A loose MP player opens to 4bb’s, we’re in the BB w/J8s.  We’re thinking about calling to just see the flop, but if we make a 3x 3bet to 12bb’s as a bluff, how often does it have to work?  The break-even math tells us our bet of 12bb’s is trying to win a total pot of 17.5bb’s, so 12/17.5 means our bluff bet needs to work 68.5% of the time.

Now that we know the math, let’s ask the question again: How often will they fold to a 3bet?  We can get a good idea of this in a few ways:

  • If we’re online and we have a decent history of maybe 300 hands or more, then looking at his Fold to 3bet will give us a great indication of how often he likely folds to 3bets in the MP.
  • IF we’re LIVE then hopefully we’ve been paying attention to how he responds to 3bets. If he tends to fight back, then our 3bet bluff is less likely to succeed.  If he has a super wide opening range but a small continuation range, then he’ll be more likely to give up and our play is prolly profitable.
  • And whether LIVE or online, we might not yet know his response to 3bets, but maybe we know about his response to cbets. If he gives up on flops easily, let’s make the 3bet then fire on any flop expecting him to fold about 66% of the time.
  • And lastly if we know nothing about the guy that we can take advantage of, maybe we can make the 3bet here to set a tone and to learn about how he responds to them.

Lots of question to ask on the flop

At one point in the HRL, SplitSuit lays out lots of questions to help us range opponents on the flop.  Some of these questions are:

  • If I bet, will my opp fold hands he missed?
  • Does he slow-play his strong hands?
  • What types of hands is he likely to raise here?

He asks quite a few more questions than these, all designed to aid in your thinking of villain’s continuation range.

The questions you ask yourself should help you to narrow down your opponent’s continuation range.  If you know what he’ll do on whiffed flops, the fact that he continues in some way means he connected.  If he comes out firing but is normally a slow-player, then he likely doesn’t have a monster.  If you’ve seen villain raise w/nfd and oesd’s in the past and he raises your cbet, then you can keep these drawing hands in his range and react accordingly based on what you want him to do.

Of course, these flop questions can be taken to other streets as well.  Most can be asked on the turn and river, and when you get to the river you’ll have some other questions you can ask yourself at that time.

Practicing your question asking (14:10)

I think we should all do is get better at asking questions, and the only way to do so is to practice.  Here’s a list of the ways we can practice asking great questions:

  • Make a list of questions you can ask yourself during your hand review study sessions. They could be math based questions, range based questions, villain player type questions, whatever.  Organize the list so you can come back and reference it at any time.
  • Make a list of questions you can ask yourself in the middle of playing an actual hand at the table to help you dissect your opp’s play on the spot.
  • Make a list of questions you can ask yourself to gauge how well you’re currently playing and whether or not you should end your session early.
  • With every training video you watch, especially with ones just released, ask the video maker a question to help clarify something they said or dive into a topic related that they didn’t speak to exactly.
  • Hit your favorite forum and within hand history review posts, ask the original poster clarifying questions regarding the villain, maybe the range the villain could have, the poster’s own range, or on anything else. Try to ask questions that will yield helpful answers to all who read the post.


“Knowledge is having the right answer.  Intelligence is asking the right question.” – unknown

“Ignorance is a temporary affliction, remedied only by asking the right questions.” – Colin Wright: Exile Lifestyle is the blog of author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler, Colin Wright

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire: Voltaire (real name François-Marie Arouet) (1694 – 1778) was a French philosopher and writer of the Age of Enlightenment. His intelligence, wit and style made him one of France's greatest writers and philosophers.

“He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning.” – Danish Proverb

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don't ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Astrophysicist

Podcast Challenge (16:20)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Make a list of questions that you could ask yourself on the river that will help guide your river approach.  Take a situation of your choice: Maybe the flush completed, the board paired, an over card came, a seemingly unimportant card came, or whatever situation you want.  Now, make a list of at least 3 questions to help guide your actions on the river.  What knowledge will help you make the value bet, the bluff bet, the check raise, the check call or the check behind that’s correct in this instance?  There are plenty of questions you could ask yourself to guide you to the correct strategy.

Send me your river questions via email and I’ll reply with the questions I like to ask myself on the river.  Let’s learn together, you and me, taking our question asking skills to the next level!

Purchase the Hand Reading Lab and support the show

I got the ‘Hand Reading Lab' and it’s the best poker course I’ve ever experienced and I truly feel it’s worth every penny.

The course contains everything you need to master the skill and art of hand reading:

  • 27 videos
  • Powerful Guides and Exercises
  • A 2-hour Hand Reading Webinar
  • A Hand Reading LIVE Tags video from Red Chip Poker
  • A Flopzilla License
  • A set of custom Flopzilla Ranges to help you hand read opponents and use Flopzilla successfully

Click here and use my affiliate offer code “smart” at checkout to get the Hand Reading Lab course and as a bonus you'll get Splitsuit's popular ‘Playing 3bet Pots' video series.  This helps to support the show at no additional cost to you.


Sky Matsuhashi

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