Live Poker Tells
If you are an online grinder then you may be more familiar with reading players online than reading players in a live poker setting. Picking up on live poker tells comes partly with experience, but there are a couple of soft rules that you can take with you into the casino to give you some idea of what to expect.
The cardinal rule is that strong means weak and weak means strong. This is just basic psychology. If a player has the best possible hand he will try to give off signs of weakness or possibly concern. If a player has a weak hand he will try to appear strong.
These are not hard and fast rules however. Once you know you are dealing with someone who has an understanding of poker psychology you might have to abandon these rules or else you risk being leveled.
Top 5 Live Poker Tells
1. Strong Means Weak
Aggressively staring is frequently a sign of weakness. If someone is intent on ‘mentally’ forcing you to fold they will unconsciously try to appear intimidating. This may take the form of a glare, the player may adopt an aggressive posture, or forcefully put chips into the pot.
Different players may exhibit signs of weakness in different ways. Keep your eyes open and don’t rely too heavily on the “strong means weak” tip when you first encounter a player.
You will likely run into many more manifestations of the “strong means weak” during your poker career. Just be mindful of the rule and try to remember what type of player you are dealing with (as well as what type of personality you are dealing with).
2. Weak Means Strong
If your opponent is being very quiet or slumping in his seat slightly he may be unconsciously trying to appear small and weak. According to our rule “weak means strong” and there is a good chance that our opponent has a good hand. The opponent doesn’t want to do or say anything that might encourage you to fold. This may result in him being quiet, a reluctance to make eye contact, deliberate movements, and sometimes a reluctance to engage in conversation.
On the other hand, with different player and personality types you may encounter different manifestations of “weak means strong.”
For instance, talkative players know that they are frequently jovial and engaging when they have weak or medium-strength hands. For a player of this type to appear weak, he must continue to act nonchalant. He may even try harder to appear uninterested in what is going on.
3. Rely Less on Tells if your Opponent is Very Good
Early in your live poker career it may be difficult to tell the difference between a player who is exhibiting a genuine tell and a player sending a false tell. Let me make it easy for you. The players who are decently skilled poker players are usually pretty easy to spot. Strong players will likely have an idea of how to disguise their emotions or display false tells. Read our article on identifying players by type for more information.
Everyone else will pretty much have no clue that they are giving away information. And they will often be bad enough that you will have no trouble separating them from the more skilled players.
Most players who are very good at poker will simply try to disguise their emotions and essentially give away no information. It is usually pretty rare for someone to try to send a false tell.
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4. Get Them Talking
If you have a difficult decision to make, try to get your opponent talking.
You can frequently pick up signs of strength or weakness, comfort or discomfort, merely by engaging your opponent in idle chit chat. If he clams up and refuses to talk at all, that in itself can be a sign of either strength or weakness depending on what type of player and person he is.
People frequently talk too much and give away information at the table. The best way to develop your reading skill in this area is to listen and pay attention. Over time you will begin to develop a feel for reading between the lines.
5. Signs of Interest or Disinterest in your Decision Making Process
If someone appears worried that you are going to call then they are likely holding a hand that isn’t very strong.
If they appear interested yet unworried their hand may be strong.
If they appear disinterested, ask yourself if you think they are faking disinterest? If they are pretending to be disinterested then there is a good chance they are weak. If they are legitimately disinterested there is a good chance their hand is at least strong enough that it doesn’t mind going to a showdown.
Figuring out how to read your opponent’s level of interest is tricky and comes with practice.