A player asked me to describe how I notice a poker tell and use it during the game. Here is an example from the 2006 World Series of Poker.
I was sitting in the middle spot, directly to the dealer’s right. I had $1,500 chips.
The player on the big blind raised to $300. Three other players also called the raise. I called in this position because the action was beginning to get focused on me.
The first card the dealer turned over was the river card. There was one bet, and I called. On the next card, another player bet and I raised all-in. Again, the other players called. On the river card, the same player that had raised pre-flop still had chips. I therefore called.
As I did, I began to figure out this player’s tell. As I watched him play, it became clear that this was a player who loved to bluff, and do it enough that a novice would think he had a powerful hand. Of course, he wasn’t holding any goods. He was, in fact, holding a high card–the two hearts that gave him a high pair. But, he was betting aggressively, trying to make the pot heads up or go to a showdown so that he would have something to bet with after the flop.
What was his play? Looking back, I figured it would be:
And that is what I saw. Heigorized my play, and helped me to develop a strategy that exploited this player’s psychological weaknesses. These tendencies, while previously hidden, would becovered with a poker tell. As the game continued and more hands were played, I would become more aware of which player was bucking, which player was limping, which player was checking and onwards. I would pick up on these clues and make a play against my opponents. Sometimes against both of them.
This player’s tells would change with each hand. As pots became larger, and as I continued to dominate my opponents, those tells would become more frequent. And, a good player, after becoming aware of my presence, would begin to Prairie Home. As they became more frequent, their poker tells would become more accurate. At that point, I’d know which player on the table was holding a stronger hand than me. But, I would not be able to do this immediately, because I had left my computer. And, so, I always had to be sure I had left the casino–so that I could hide my tell.
There is a saying about the casinos:
“You don’t want to know the house rules before you play; you want to fit in.”
The norm of the drunk or inexperienced player is usually to ask about the house rules. The temptation is to ask “Why is this guy betting so much on such a lousy hand?” The fact is that the lousy player, with his small bankroll, is forcing the action by playing out of position. This player mayem Ashe or fold, but is more likely to call with a weak hand, and go “all in.” The casino has made it easy for him by setting a limit on the amount he can win. Whether this player is to be believed, or not, the fact remains that the casinos have set the scene to make it as difficult as possible to know when a player is bluffing.
The key to accept the challenge of the skilled but inexperienced player is to instead focus on figuring out when he is not telling the truth, and to instead focus on attacking his psychological weaknesses. Focusing on these psychological♣ weaknesses is to first focus on the strengths and weaknesses of your own game. It is a no-rush job, and you are not only committing mistakes by focusing on the wrong place. You are also giving your opponents an edge by letting them into the secret.
There are no secrets in poker. It is a game of information. You information your opponent, and he information your opponent. If you are an average Dewalive player, you can exploit the information your opponent can provide you. Spend more time on research, and less time on information, and you will be a better poker player. I spend a lot of my free time writing, reading, and playing poker, and I have transformed my game over the last couple years. I have learned a lot, and I have made a lot of friends among the poker world. I’m not going to tell you that you need to do what I’ve done, but be honest with yourself, if you are a bad liar, and you just ace five card, you got something to lose.