Genting Poker London – How to Spot Live Tells
Being able to identify live poker tells is one of the special skills of the game. If you can read your opponent’s physical body language, then you potentially have a massive edge over them. But where do you start? If you’ve only ever taken part in a live game against members of your own family or your friends, taking on strangers can seem daunting. After all, if you don’t know someone, how can you know what they’re thinking? But in poker, as in life, there is always a way.
We’re here to help you stare-down your opponents in the Friday Classic or cold-read them in cash games at the Palm Beach… and make the right call!
1. Facial Tells
Everyone talks about a ‘pokerface’ when you tell them that you play poker, don’t they? But far more important than locking down your own tell-tale giveaways is identifying others. We lie often with our faces, throughout poker, and some of the most obvious bluffs come from this area. Players who stare you down intensely don’t usually have the nuts. They’re signalling that they have observed you carefully, and this can often be because they themselves are holding weaker hands than they’re comfortable with. The same can be true with overly-friendly players who start to pipe up during a hand to engage you. They’re afraid of you processing the hand rather than them.
If you notice someone deliberately look away from a hand, to a friend on the rail, a waitress or just thin air, for example…they’re seldom weak. Someone acting like they aren’t bothered by flop often hit it full in the face. They’ll often glance away quickly. But if they put a hand in front of their mouth? That can be because they’re concealing emotions – watch what your opponent shows down with in hands where they did this and combine the information to give you the tell you need.
2. Hand Tells
The human hand contains more individual bones, joints and muscles than any other part of the body, meaning a myriad of multiple tells are just a flick of the wrist away. Some of the most common of these happen before a player has even made a bet. Watch the fingers and hands of your opponents for an orbit and you’ll learn a lot. Several players make slight movements towards throwing their hand away before the action is on them, and you can identify that weakness consistently with practice. Others protect their cards like an instinct to hold onto money or something valuable to them, giving their hidden treasure a brief look before covering them up. Gold dust.
We all use hand gestures to manipulate people during conversations, and direct motions can often be because we want to control a situation. It’s the same at the poker table, with strong gestures designed to confuse and disorient opponents into thinking their hand is too weak to continue with. Fumbling chips or stalling over a bet can indicate nerves, but you must establish whether these pertain to weakness or strength by watching your adversaries closely in action before you know for sure.
3. Body Language
It’s not only our hands that can betray weakness. Our bodies give away tells all the time, such as the weakness betrayed by the slump of our shoulders when we get dealt 7-2 three times in a row. But often, people pretend to be weak when they are strong. These deceptive mannerisms often come through the hands or face, but are let down by their bodies. Leaning forward and acting weak? Often strength. Acting bold but wearing a suit? Very possibly tighter than they are behaving.
A change in the pace of someone’s breathing is almost always unconscious. Breathing in a shallow or slower fashion than usual is a good indicator of a player not wanting to get caught out holding weak cards or being called in a bluff. But a monster hand can often manifest itself in making the body perform more actions than necessary – a reach for a drink, for example. Larger, more open gestures that are supposed to look casual but in fact are out of the ordinary can reveal premium hands or a made hand.
4. Chip Tells
Once again, as with twitching and hole-cards, if a player is already reaching for their chips and it’s not their turn, this should act as a warning – and it’s incredible how may do it. They look happy to bet without knowing any of the betting action before them, and another sign of this strength is the immediate stop to riffling chips (or talking). Players start to focus a lot more when they know it is a hand they should get paid with. Clamming up or leaving chips alone which they were happy to play with a few seconds earlier should set alarm bells ringing. Another valuable tell is harder to notice, but if an opponent glances at their chips or a player already in the hand’s chip-stack then looks away from them, they are often considering how much money they can make.
Other signs are the opposite. Chip intimidation, such as a strong forward push to the pile of chips staked by a player, or over-exaggeration of thrown-in chips can let you know that they are really trying to represent much stronger cards than they hold.
5. Card Tells
During gameplay, if your enemy takes a really long look at their cards or the flop in front of them, they most likely have little to play with. Often, the longer a player can take, the more likely a hand is going to be a bluff. Let’s imagine that all three flop-cards come the same suit. If the player looks at their cards, very often this means that they have only one of that suit at best. You can exert pressure on them should no more of those cards come out of the pack on turn or river.
Should a fellow tablemate look at their hand and bet quickly, this can often represent the truth, and you can gauge that strength from their bet-size and the number of players involved in the hand.
Taking time to study your opponents as they sit in their chairs may seem like time wasted in the early hours of doing so. But you’ll be surprised how quickly repeating these physical studies becomes second nature and a valuable skill is added to your poker persona. After all, if someone could see what cards you have without you showing them, would you want to play cards with them?
Good luck putting these tips into practice at the tables, whether it’s taking down the Genting 150 or from 8pm every night in cash games at The Palm Beach Casino!