I’m not sure if it’s a weakness in my game or not, but I often find that when I’m heavily in the zone at a no-limit game, and have a very good feel for where my opponents are on most hands I’m in, I sometimes get in a hand where I have a very good hand, but underplay it because I don’t have a good feel for where my opponents are in that hand. It’s hard to describe why, but sometimes I’ll have a very solid hand, but if I don’t have a good read one way or the other on an opponent I’m otherwise reading well, I’ll be very reluctant to bet it. I don’t consider it a huge weakness in my game because generally when this happens my opponent is weak and would be unlikely to call big bets or raises anyway. Here’s my latest real-life example:

I’m in late position with A9 diamonds in a $1-2 game, and raise one limper to $8. Big blind and limper, both players I’ve got a pretty good read lock on, call. Flop comes A-8-3 rainbow. Both check it to me, and I don’t feel weakness in the first player’s check — but it’s kind of a dirty read and I don’t have him on a set or the like, I just don’t really feel good putting him strong or weak. In this situation I should almost certainly bet, but I’ve already thought too long about player 1 and so I terminate my tell by checking. Turn comes a 9, giving me two pair, and both players check to me again, but again something about player 1’s check again has me confused and so again I think for a little too long, and then check a second time. River comes a Q, first player bets $15, a much lower bet than he would bet under either a steal or a good hand against other good hands. Player 2 folds, and I just call, and he flips over just a queen.

I clearly played the hand poorly, yet I don’t feel too bad about it, because I probably couldn’t have gotten any more money than I did, and I generally play in games where waiting until I do feel a lock is profitably possible.

I guess what I’m describing is getting out of my element in a hand because I feel like I have an absence of a read that I should otherwise have. Can anyone point me to any articles about similar concepts? I can’t recall any real analysis of something like this — is it bad, is it good, how do you treat situations when you have dirty reads in general. I feel like even though on its own I played the hand above sub-optimally, underplaying those hands in a game where I frequently have very good reads is better than overplaying them; if I have a solid read 50% of the time, it probably pays to be even more conservative when I’m not sure where I stand.

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