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Alan25main’s thoughts on “How to Spot a Liar”

May 12, 2021

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In our recent blog article, we shared some tips on how to spot a liar at a live poker table. Playing online can be much tougher! Wary of a bluff coming your way? Alan25main shares some tips you can use detect them at Replay’s tables.

One of my favorite serious poker thinkers is Mike “The Mad Genius” Caro (rhymes with arrow). I met him in 1992 when he organized the first “World Poker Finals” tournaments at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, though we had corresponded earlier. He’s had a great career. 

For many years in the 1980s and early 1990s, he was considered the finest Draw Poker player in the world–in the days when Draw Poker was the ONLY form of legal poker outside of Nevada in the USA. He made numerous contributions to the information in  Doyle Brunson’s original SuperSystem. Here’s Wikipedia’s entry on him:

Mike also published one of the earliest serious looks at detecting bluffery based on players’ appearances at the table. Caro’s Book of Tells, pretty much the seminal work on the subject, was first printed about 1983 and is still easily available today. It’s illustrated with photographs showing what to look for. He has since followed up with a video that is quite good.

Unfortunately, almost none of the very valuable insights Mike gives us apply to an online game. We simply don’t have the benefit of seeing our rascally opponent squirm as we stare at him/her. Those visible clues are lacking and are likely to always be so. So, what can online players use as a substitute?

First, we can observe our opponents over a long period of time. If Player A usually has the goods when called, s/he isn’t bluffing much. We need to take that history into account. Maybe that player doesn’t bluff at all; yes, it’s possible. If we see that Player B gets called a lot and has second best more than 10% of the times called, we can certainly use that to adjust our calling frequency, can’t we?

Second, we can observe how quickly–or slowly–players bet in turn when the action comes to them. If quick, did they seem to have that action pre-planned? What does that tell us? Maybe nothing–but, maybe it means s/he was going to take that action regardless of what new card or information appeared. Which, in turn likely means either a pure bluff or overwhelming strength; you’ll have to judge which by thinking of that player’s history.

Third, think about the other player’s table position. Is it likely they’re trying to force you out with a bluff simply because they have position and a threatening board on you? (I actually got into the money in a tournament earlier today making a hero call with 10-10 into a four-flush and won because of this, so this does happen.)

Do you have any other methods of detecting bluffs from players online?