Understanding Tells in Texas Holdem
Some great players have an uncanny ability to read tells. Since you and I don’t have that gift, we need a system, which is exactly what Mike Caro provides in The Body Language of Poker. Instead of telling war stories, he explains how various tells signal a player’s motives and thoughts. Buy and study it. It will pay for itself in no time.
He identifies the actions that suggest that someone is bluffing, has a big hand, etc. However, some tells are just strong cues you need to use along with additional factors to make your final decision. You must go beyond generalities and treat players as individuals. What does it mean when this player bets forcefully or looks you right in the eye?
This point is particularly true for people who have read Caro’s website, which includes most highly skilled players. Because they know what you are looking for, they may deliberately send you false signals.
Study his website, but go beyond his general principles and record every specific tell you see because they are nearly 100 percent reliable. For example, some players always bluff by throwing their chips forcefully, while others always bluff by betting neatly and gently. If you spot a specific tell and do not record it, you may forget it or fail to look for it. So make a note each time you notice a tell.
Poker authors rarely discuss this subject, probably because the people in their games don’t often telegraph their intentions, but it happens frequently in middle and lower limit games (and occasionally in big games). A telegraph is any signal of what people are going to do. Some telegraphs are subtle, just a tension or relaxation that you may miss without concentrating, but some are extremely obvious, literally unmistakable.
For example, many people hold their cards or put them on the table in a way that indicates they will fold if you bet or raise. These telegraphs are particularly common and noticeable before the flop and on third street in stud because people don’t care about the hand. They indirectly invite you to bluff or steal their blinds or antes, and it would be rude to reject such a generous offer.
Telegraphs can also improve your effective position. You may have three people behind you, but see that two of them are going to fold. Your effective position is now further along, allowing you to bet with a hand you had intended to check, to raise when you had intended to call.
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