The world’s greatest poker players can read their opponents like a book. They happen to be great human lie detectors. It isn’t magic, though, as there are several key tip-offs that you too can look for when trying to read opponents.
Here are five tells you might spot at your next poker game.
1. When a player glances at his chips, it’s usually a sign of strength
You’re playing Texas Hold’em and when the flop is dealt, you notice that your opponent quickly looks down at his chips. This tell is very common, especially amongst novice players.
It’s a purely subconscious reaction. When the flop comes giving you a great hand, your brain sends out a signal to check the size of your stack to see how much you can bet. Players don’t even realize that they do it, but they do. Be observant and you’ll catch it every time.
As soon as the flop hits, the eyes of a player who makes his hand will quickly dart towards his chips and then back up again.
2. Strong means weak and weak means strong
This is another common tell that you can spot in several forms. It can be the way a player throws his chips into the pot or the tone of his voice that gives away his hand.
When a player sounds dejected, saying something like, "Well, I guess it’s now or never; I might as well bet all of my chips," that’s usually a sign that he holds a powerful hand. He’s trying to sound weak so he doesn’t scare you off. Trust me, he’ll show you a full house if you call him!
Another way to spot this tell is to watch how an opponent puts his chips into the pot.
Did he forcefully throw his chips toward you, or did he gently place a stack in the pot?
When a player throws his chips in an aggressive manner, he’s trying to scare you. He probably has a weak hand. On the flipside, when he gently places his bet in the pot, he likely has something strong and he’s inviting you into the pot, hoping that you’ll call.
3. A player who makes no sense at all is usually nervous and a bluffer
While playing, I’ll often ask competitors questions to gauge their responses. If someone responds incoherently, it’s generally a sign of nervousness that comes from bluffing. Conversely, if an opponent is very calm when answering, he probably has a strong hand. Most likely, you’re beat.
4. Sudden change of behavior
When a normally talkative player suddenly has nothing to say, you can be sure he’s bluffing. In fact, anytime a player does something that appears to be out of the ordinary for them, it’s generally a clue that they’re bluffing.
5. Body language reveals much
When a player bluffs, he’ll often curl up into a ball, literally or figuratively, hoping to avoid bringing any attention to himself.
For instance, if you play with a guy who smokes, watch the way he pulls a drag from his cigarette after he makes a bet. If he takes a deep drag and blows out a big cloud of smoke, it’s often a sign of strength. He’s comfortable.
On the other hand, if that same guy pushes a big bet into the pot, takes a drag, and then barely blows out any smoke, he’s bluffing. He doesn’t want to bring any attention to himself so he tenses up. Often, he’ll look very stiff and unnatural.
These tips should help you pick off a timely bluff or two, but it’s important to
note that each individual tip, while taken alone, cannot be counted on for complete accuracy.
Reading physical tells will certainly make you a better player, but the only way to become a great player is to master the fundamentals of the game.
Visit www.fullcontactpoker.com/news to submit your questions and comments to poker champion Daniel Negreanu.
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