Excerpts from Zachary Elwood's 'Exploiting Poker Tells'
My third poker tells book Exploiting Poker Tells will be publicly available in a couple of weeks (late March 2017). This book is focused much more on practical considerations of how to use tells to make decisions. It includes more than 135 hand histories, both from me and from a few other pro players.
I wanted to share a couple hand history excerpts from the book. This is newer content, meaning I haven't written much about it before in my other books or articles.
Hand #124: Inconspicuous all-in strengthens range
$2-5 NLHE cash game
My opponent in this hand is short-stacked: he only has $200 to start the hand. There is one limp and he raises in middle position to $25. I call in the small blind with .
The flop is . I check and he checks back.
The turn is the . I check and he bets $35 into $55. I call.
The river is another .
I check and he says, "All in," but he says it very quietly. After a few seconds pause, he starts to slide his chips into the pot. He first slides one stack of chips into the pot and then, after a few more seconds, slides the other stack. It's $140 total, into a $125 pot.
His combined river behaviour is very likely to indicate a strong hand. Why is that?
Let's imagine he were bluffing. If he were bluffing, he wouldn't want to quietly announce an all-in and then only put half his stack in. If he did this, his opponent might not hear his all-in and might announce, "Call," thinking the bet was only $70 and not the full $140. If this player were bluffing, he would probably either announce "All in" clearly, or he would place his whole stack in at one time.
When a bettor doesn't seem concerned with his bet amount being clearly understood, it's a strong indicator of relaxation. This pattern holds true for any bets that could easily be missed or misinterpreted.
I fold and the player shows for the flopped set and rivered full house.
Bluffers will usually have a motivation to a) express confidence by putting in chips, and b) want to ensure the full bet amount is clearly understood.
Another couple examples of similar behaviour:
- A player announces, "All in" fairly quietly and then throws a single chip into the pot.
- A player bets several stacks of chips, without stating an amount, and the stacks are positioned in such a way that his opponent might not see some of the chips. For example, the player pushes three chip stacks in, but one of the chip stacks is shorter and slightly hidden behind the other two stacks.
Quiet announcements of all-ins can be even more of a factor when the bettor's opponent is far across the table or the opponent is wearing headphones. For example, had I been wearing headphones in this hand, the bettor's behaviour would seem even more relaxed, as he'd likely be even more concerned than usual that I wouldn't hear his all-in announcement.
To compare this to the behaviour in the last hand (not putting in chips when going all-in) I'd say inconspicuous all-in behaviour is much more likely to be reliable. I mention this just to point out that different behaviours will have different levels of reliability. I've avoided trying to rank such things in this book, as I think they can vary so much across player populations, so there's a limit to the usefulness of trying to define that kind of thing exactly.
Hand #125: Visually obscured bet makes strong hand likely
$5-10 NLHE cash game
A player bets $155 on the river into a pot of $140. His bet is arranged with $55 in red chips sitting on top of a single $100 black chip.
Similar to the last hand, this is a bet that could easily be misinterpreted by an opponent as being smaller than it actually was. The black chip could easily be overlooked, and this was especially a factor in this situation because the card room was pretty dark. This means it's likely the bettor is not concerned about a call stemming from a misunderstanding of the bet size. Bluffers will generally be careful to ensure an opponent sees or understands the bet size.
Zachary Elwood is the author of Reading Poker Tells, Verbal Poker Tells and the soon-to-be-published Exploiting Poker Tells. He's also the creator of a poker tells video series (www.readingpokertells.video). Follow him on Twitter @apokerplayer.