TELLS – look for them…and you’ll find them
Well since you asked, let’s talk about the famous TELLS of Poker!
Once you’ve pegged a player’s basic style, don’t make the mistake of assuming he’s going to play that same way every day of his life. Sometimes a player makes a conscious effort to change his manner of play. More often, however, his current mood affects his play.
Some days people have more of a playing spirit than on other days. If a man doesn’t feel like playing, and has become involved in a game anyway, he’ll throw his hand away very easily. He can be bluffed.
But if you see another guy sitting there chewing gum, and bouncing his leg up and down, you know he’s anxious to get into action. He came to play. You have to handle him with caution. It’s not safe to bluff him, at least not to start with.
Almost all players have Tells … those giveaway moves that are almost as revealing, to a rival who has spotted them, as actually showing him your hand.
The most common Tell is the pulse in a man’s neck. On a lot of people, the pulse in the neck is visible. If so, a man can’t hide it, since nobody can control their heartbeat in stress situations. When you see a man’s neck just throbbing away, you know he’s excited, and usually he’s excited because he is bluffing.
You may have heard someone ask another player: “How deep are you?” That question is sometimes an attempt to establish a Tell. (The question means: How much money do you have in front of you?) It’s worth knowing. I don’t think a player should be obligated to tell you, even though I have heard it argued both ways.
Questions like that are worth asking for psychological reasons. When a man’s under pressure, his voice may break, and then you know something about his current attitude.
When I’m playing in a big pot, I won’t let anyone involve me in conversation.
Even real Pros are susceptible. Once I had a Tell on Puggy Pearson. Every time he put his chips in the rack and bet them, he was bluffing. He must have been doing that six months before somebody else discovered it and told him.
Another time, Amarillo Slim Preston pointed out to me that I was counting my chips off and betting them when I had a hand, and when I was bluffing I would just push them in without counting. That’s the only Tell anyone had on me that I know about, but I’m sure there have been others.
All top Professionals have a defense against people using Tells against them. Sometimes when I’m bluffing I say some particular thing, like “gee whiz”, so that people will connect that with bluff.
But the next time I say “gee whiz”, I won’t be bluffing.
With a great deal of experience, you may learn not only whether a man is bluffing or has a quality hand, but the actual cards he holds. This is what people mean when they say a particular player can “put a man on a hand”. My natural ability along these lines has contributed a lot to my success.
I remember playing in a game where you could almost tell what Jimmy Cassella had by the amount he would raise. That’s the only thing you had to know. With an A 10 in Hold ’em, he’d raise about $100; with an A J, he’d raise $125, and so forth.
Other players have patterns that, while less pronounced, are definitely visible to a Poker Professional. You take into account the way they are sitting, their previous playing habits, how they bet, and often even the tone of their voices. It’s the totality of everything about them rather than any one particular thing.