(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.)
Long looks at hole cards will tend to weaken a player’s range. This is especially true for initial, preflop looks at cards.
The video below features a couple of examples, starting with a tournament hand where a player stares at his cards for a couple seconds and then limps.
What are the reasons for this behaviour?
Let’s consider players with strong hole cards first. Players who look down at strong hands, like or preflop, have an instinct to avoid drawing attention to themselves. This often manifests as looking quickly away from their cards. There may also be an instinct to hide their “treasure” and make sure no one else sees it.
Staring for a couple seconds at weak- or medium-strength hands is basically the lack of the looking-quickly-away-from-strong-hands behaviour.
It’s pretty common for players to look quickly at hole cards in general. There are many quick looks at both strong and weak hands, which means there is not much information to be gained from quick looks. It is more rare, though, to stare for a second or two at hole cards, and that is why there is more information in long looks.
What are the practical uses of noticing this behaviour?
First, it’s important that you believe a pattern is reliable for a player before acting on it. Some players are consistent with how they look at cards. Other players have told me that they actually look at strong cards longer than at weak cards (although this is rare). The point is that you should observe someone a bit before basing a decision on the behavior.
If you believe it is likely to be reliable information, you can loosen up considerably in several ways when you see an opponent stare at his or her cards. A few examples:
- An under-the-gun player stares at his cards for a few seconds and limps. While you might have previously been afraid of the player limping or , the player’s behaviour has made this much less likely and you can now feel better about raising light.
- You are in the small blind and see a late-position player look at his cards early and stare at them for a couple seconds. He raises first-in and his behaviour encourages you to three-bet him light.
- You are heads-up and you have continuation bet the flop with air. Your opponent calls. On the turn, your opponent double-checks his cards and stares at them for a couple seconds before checking to you. His behavior encourages you to continue betting.
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.