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Learn How to Read Your Opponents Tells!


Poker tells is an area of poker that we all like to over-dramatize. Unlike starting-hand selection and draw mathematics, putting players on strong or weak hands is an entirely different practice. There are books on the subject but it's my opinion that these books really only serve one purpose; they get you started at watching the table for patterns and physical glitches your opponents may leak out.

The first step in gaining tells on opponents is to learn as much as you can about their play. It doesn't matter the opponent's style, it only matters that you can recognize that style. Once you identify each, you can play accordingly. Each type can be taken advantage of and each type can hurt you. This is your foundation you will use to build a character of your opponent based on the rest of their actions.

Once you have an educated opinion of what your opponents are capable of, it's easier to decide if they are on the bluff or not. If the bet is out of character and there is also a physical difference in movement or speech, it's likely that opponent is up to something.

Everything is a situation, and the more information you can compile about your current situation the better. Why is this opponent making such a large bet? Are they short-stacked and in danger of getting blinded out? Could they be on tilt? Has he bullied me or other opponents out of previous pots?

Once you understand basic betting patterns, a lot of bluffs will be exposed to you. It usually takes only a few hands to realize if a player has some skill or is a complete fish. Erratic bets from unskilled players are most times bluffs. Skilled players wait for a situation where it looks like they have hit a hand based on how the board cards played out. It's called representing a hand. They wait for the third card to the flush, or for the second-highest board card to pair and bluff where an opponent can determine that they may have gotten outdrawn. When an odd bet from an unskilled player suddenly appears on the river, their lack of betting knowledge will be exposed once you break down the hand.

Tells rarely jump out at you. What works best for me is to anticipate what my opponent's next move is going to be. If I was him, and I had the nuts, I would do this. Or, if I was him and I had nothing, I would do this. Putting yourself in their shoes gives you a different perspective and allows you to reason out their motives.

Once the situation is calculated and you have formed a likely synopsis, the correct decision is usually the most plausible possibility. In other words, trust the information you have compiled. It's surprising how good your instincts can be with a small amount of information. We've been sniffing out danger since we climbed out of the trees; listen to the little voice inside. Even when you are wrong against someone, you should remember how that hand went down for next time.

Oreo cookies and pulsing veins are not what you're looking for at the table. Tells aren't as they are portrayed in the movies; it's more about watching how an opponent acts when they have the goods and how they act when they don't. It's up to you to watch and remember what the dude in the ugly yellow shirt did when he had that boat an hour and a half ago.

And don't forget the other side of the coin. Your patterns and habits are being watched and filed, so make sure you change up your style and show the table something different every now and then. Good luck.


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