C8C #9 – Looking For Tells

This week I will be discussing at what point we should rely on physical tells to make a decision. They can be a big part of making a decision in a poker hand, but only if we use them correctly!

I ask my readers, if you have poker questions about hands, general strategy, or anything else poker you’d like answered, send me an e-mail and I will incorporate those inquiries into future newsletters. I look forward to the responses.

Today’s Poker Advice:

Physical tells at the poker table are something that can be very deceiving. One player might get nervous or excited when they have the nuts, while another might do the same when they are bluffing. Other people could be sporadic and giving off too much to decipher at one point in time. Also, people can give off fake tells! For these reasons, I think physical tells need to be assessed in a minor way.

What that means is we should make sense of the hand first, analyzing our opponent and how they might play their range up until this point, then figure out how likely it is that they are bluffing or have a high value hand. That’s not meant to minimize the fact that physical tells exist, but since they differ vastly from person to person, we can’t always rely on them. Therefore, we should use them as a final measurement when making a decision.

Now there are times when it is obvious. Our opponent is screaming strength or weakness. Their pulse is beating through the skin on their neck! Again, this is why it is best for us to replay the hand and try to make sense of what they could possibly have. We don’t necessarily know what that means for this specific player. Once we think we have a tell on someone, it is best to confirm or deny it with evidence from a showdown.

Some common tells to look for:

Overall body language
Positioning in chair, how comfortable do they look? Are they attentive to what’s happening in the hand? How has any of this changed during the course of the hand? What are they doing with their arms, hands, eyes, etc?

This is a classic one. Pulse can be noticed typically on the neck or wrists. It means their heart rate is up from resting and is usually significant one way or another. Either nervousness or excitement.

This can go hand in hand with pulse. Sometimes they are correlated, but notice the breath to determine how relaxed someone is.

Movement with chips
How someone throws their chips into a pot can be telling. Some might use the same technique when they are comfortable and a different style otherwise.

How fast did the player act? Did they think for a very long time before making a move? Did they snap move all in without thinking?

When it comes to using tells at the poker table, they can be very rewarding at specific moments. If you try to read people too often, it can hurt you in the long run. Take your time to make sense of the hand first, while analyzing your opponent and their play throughout the course of the hand. Once you get to the river, you should have a better idea of where you stand, and after you’ve considered all the present variables, then take into account your opinion on the physical cues the villain is giving you.

On the flip side, be careful what information you might be giving off yourself. I was able to notice tells in other people by being aware of what I was doing in certain spots. Once I realized my actions, it allowed me to correct the mistakes and look for those same tells in other people.

Sometimes the tells are obvious, other times they are just random. Choose wisely!