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“How’s Your Poker Face?” by Alan25main

July 8, 2020

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Are you giving away a tell? Whether you’re enjoying live poker or you’re seated at Replay’s tables, you can learn valuable information about the ways your competitors play. Read Alan25main’s advice on what to look for.

Sitting at a live poker table, we have lots of ways to get possible tells from opponents. Almost anything that happens can provide us with clues in a live game.

When an opponent raises, did he look left or right? Looking left is at players acting after the raise. Is the raiser hoping they’ll call or fold? Looking right is at those who have already acted. Is s/he trying to figure out who was slow-playing a monster or hoping they’ll all fold? 

Was the raise large or small? A large raise could mean a monster hand. It could also mean a pure bluff. If it was small, it could mean the raiser is hoping to be re-raised or at least called because the raiser is holding a monster. It could also mean the raiser is just trying to build a pot. How do we know which it was?

How fast did they act? A quick call or reaction might mean the player is merely interested in seeing the next card. But, it could also mean he’s hoping to get raised. If the action was delayed or slow, does that mean indecision? Or is she playing possum hoping to check raise? How much hesitation was there before s/he called? 

Some players are just natural actors, others need more lessons. What expression was on that opponent’s face?  Is s/he showing any visible emotion? Excitement? Worry/concern? Eagerness? Are they “suddenly reacting” to the fall of a card that could open a possibility for them? 

Are there any clues in the table talk? A hint of excitement in the voice? Did the constant chatterer suddenly go quiet, perhaps as if now suddenly paying attention to the game? Did that last card make a difference?

A common habit among regular casino poker players is riffling their chip stacks. They will take two, usually small, chip stacks in one hand and intermix the chips into a single larger stack. You’ve seen it a thousand times on TV if nowhere else. Did they suddenly start or stop doing it? Did they suddenly change the speed they were doing it at? I actually knew a player who sped up when his chances improved and slowed down if he missed a draw–and, no, I didn’t tell him; I might play him again someday. I doubt he ever knew he did that.

Way back in the old days when everybody smoked, we had a player who would light a new cigarette every time he got a strong hand. Sometimes, he’d have two or three burning at the same time. Yes, it was funny at the time, and eventually he stopped doing it. I always wondered why he didn’t just do it as a bluff, now and then.

Most of these things are more difficult to notice playing online. But, some can apply there, too. How quickly did that opponent react to a new board card or a raise? You won’t see him light a second cigarette, but you might notice a significant delay or speed-up of action.

The point of these questions isn’t to tell you how to interpret the actions. It’s to make you aware that virtually every action at the table can have hidden information you might be able to use.

Look for differences, changes. Take advantage of the Notes function Replay has built into the tables. To know what is different, you have to study your opponents as if your chip stack depends on it. Because it might.