Live poker tells
Over the years there has been a lot written and talked about when it comes to ‘poker tells’. Mike Caro’s classic poker book, The Art of Tells, has for a long time been considered the bible when it comes to reading body language. It is a great book for anyone who is learning to further improve their poker through reading peoples’ actions.
I think that reading ‘tells’ is a slightly misleading notion. It suggests that most poker players will give you tell-tale signs that indicate they have a good or bad hand. I have always thought that a far better way to monitor the situation is to be highly aware of everything that is happening around you. I like to call this the ‘art of observation’ and this is a skill that good players do instinctively and bad players are totally oblivious to.
When you are at a poker table, everything that is happening around you is vital information. What appears to be trivial might one day help you win a big pot. It doesn’t take many trivial pieces of information before you realize what a difference it can make to your win-loss ratio. Bad players constantly do and say things that betray them.
There are the obvious tells that everyone learns pretty quickly: touching your face, nervously laughing, going for your chips and a noticeably pulsing neck. Once you actually start to become aware of what is going on around the table, you will be amazed at what you can learn.
What people are eating, drinking, how they are sitting, whether they are tired or alert, what their concentration levels are, what they are wearing and most importantly what is coming out of their mouths is of paramount importance.
Poker players love to talk and really, the majority of them should bring a roll of masking tape to the table and apply a fresh piece to their mouths every 10 minutes to ensure that no words get out.
They will tell you how long they have been playing, what they normally play, how their personal relationships are going and if their dog died last week. You name it, they will want to tell you. Now is the time to listen carefully as there might be something in all this that you can exploit now or even a few hours later.
Poker is a game where the object is to win money. Adults sit down and take their chances against other adults. So it’s not bad etiquette to take advantage of anything on a poker table that will help you win.