(This article is part of a series. Each article discusses a specific poker behaviour and features a short sample clip from Zachary Elwood’s Reading Poker Tells Video series.)
Double-checking hole cards before a significant postflop bet will tend to strengthen a player’s range.
The video clip below features a tournament hand where a player double-checks his hole cards before betting on the flop.
What are the reasons for this pattern?
First, let’s think about how someone might theoretically interpret a double-check of hole cards. The surface-level meaning is that someone is not certain of what their cards are. There’s a surface-level meaning of uncertainty.
Players who are going to be bluffing or betting weak hands have a motivation not to appear uncertain. They want to appear confident and certain. They don’t want to do something that may accidentally make an opponent suspicious.
For this reason, players who are bluffing or betting weak hands will generally bet normally and not double-check their hole cards.
Players with strong hands, on the other hand, can have a motivation to appear uncertain in an attempt (consciously or not) to get action. This is another reason for this pattern.
Keep in mind...
Keep in mind that the double-check of hole cards before a bet doesn’t necessarily indicate great strength. It does generally indicate some relaxation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a player is super-strong.
Also keep in mind we’re talking specifically about double-checking hole cards shortly before a postflop bet. We’re not talking about double-checking hole cards when it’s someone else’s turn to act, or double-checking cards between streets. We’re talking specifically about the behavior coming soon before a bet.
Also keep in mind this pattern mainly applies to postflop situations. This behavior preflop is not as reliable, just because hand strength is not nearly as defined and players are more capable of doing unusual things.
Two examples from the WSOP Main Event
In last year’s World Series of Poker Main Event footage on ESPN, there were two instances of this behavior from November Niner Pierre Neuville. These both came in Episode 13.
In the first hand, Pierre had raised with and was called by Josh Beckley. The flop came , and Beckley check-called Neuville’s continuation bet. The turn was the and when Beckley checked Neuville checked back. The river brought the , giving Neuville trips. Beckley led out this time and Neuville double-checked his cards before raising.
Later on in the same episode, Neuville got frisky in some blind-vs.-blind action and four-bet with . Then on a flop of , Neuville double-checked his cards before betting with top pair.
Norman Chad called out the behavior, saying, “This is the second time tonight we’ve seen Pierre look back at his cards after hitting one of them to make sure he has what he has.”
In fairness to Neuville, it’s entirely possible that he is balanced with this behavior and they just happened to only show the hands in which he did this with strong hands. But in my opinion it’s more likely he is imbalanced and is adhering to the general pattern.
What are the practical uses of noticing this behaviour?
Mainly, the practical use is to fold if you are at all on the fence about whether to call or fold. If you were thinking about bluff-raising or floating, this behavior should discourage you in general.
As with any behavioural pattern, keep in mind that this is never going to be 100% certain information. It’s a general pattern that you should look for and use when you’re on the fence about a decision, or if you notice it to be quite reliable for a specific player.
Just as a reminder that things are never going to be certain, I’ve included this clip from a $1/$2/$5 cash game where a player double-checks his hole cards before bluffing the turn with a straight draw. Take a look:
Reading Poker Tells Video Series: This has been an article featuring info and a video sample from one of the videos in Zachary Elwood’s poker tells series. You can sign up for a free 3-part email course on the front page of this site: www.readingpokertells.video. Signing up for the email course also gets you a 15% discount off of any of the video series packages.