Poker Strategy: Look For More Than Just Tells

Posted at 15:24 2009-03-02
Everybody always begins poker by learning how to adopt the classic poker face. A look that shows expresses no emotion when you have the nuts or when you have a stone-cold bluff. There are also plenty of authors of books dedicated to poker tells. All the little things like nervous hands, twitching of the mouth or shaking of the legs all representing either a strong or weak hand.
Naturally, after reading all this text one goes and jumps into a live game with the feeling of invincibility, as they prepare themselves to absorb every tell that their unknowing opponents throw at them. The reality is that it’s not quite that easy. One or two tells might come up but there are many far more important things to focus on that tells if you want to succeed on the felt. Here are a few more non-physical tells to focus on to improve your game.
Betting Patterns
Betting patterns pre-flop and post-flop are often the most reliable methods of deciphering the strength of your opponent’s hand. An inconsistent betting pattern leads to players knowing whether you are showing weakness or strength. Watching a person’s pre-flop betting amounts will also lead to you to deciphering what range of cards they have to you can better determine if the flop is likely to have helped them.
Chip Management
Does your opponent like to get all their chips in when they have top pair from the first hand or do they wait until the blinds increase before committing their last chips into the middle?  If an opponent likes to go all in at a certain point in a tournament then you know that the player is capable of throwing some moves at you and you can prepare accordingly. Watch what your opponent’s do when their stack is big, medium and short to better understand their tendencies.
Bluffing Frequency
Does your opponent continually raise your blinds from the button?  Does he ever try to bluff players out of position? By paying attention to the showdown of cards in hands you are no involved in, you will get a better idea of the range of hands that your opponent plays from different positions and how often they are bluffing at the pot.
Calling Station or Weak Tight
Does your opponent like to call bets even when they only have middle pair? Do they like chasing all their draws no matter what the price? Or are they the complete opposite? Do they fold at every bet that is over the pot or “look for a better spot” every time somebody threatens their entire stack? How often a player calls is very important on how you should play against them. Be smart and pick your opponents to pick on and those to avoid bluffing to assist you to advance deeper into tournaments.
While tells play a role in live poker, they are often over-rated and relying on them too often can be a fruitless exercise. It’s more important to pay attention to some of the other elements of your opponent’s play in order to gain the best read on them.


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Poker Strategy: Look For More Than Just Tells Poker Strategy: Look For More Than Just Tells

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