10 Essential Texas Hold'em Moves: The Reverse Tell

Mike Caro
Mike Caro knows a thing or two about confusing behavior.

We’re here to tell you winning at poker isn’t all about fundamentals.

There are a handful of special moves that, when mastered, can make the difference between winning a little, and winning a lot.

In this ten-part beginner poker strategy series we’re going to show you exactly how to use these powerful poker moves to make more money.

Today we’re talking about the reverse tell, sometimes called a false tell. It’s a move that can disorient your opponents and make it a lot harder for them to make the right decision.

By mastering the reverse tell you can trick your opponents into mucking when they have the best of it and shoveling their chips into the middle when they’re crushed.

The What: A form of misinformation, reverse tell refers to a deliberate behavior or action intended to make your opponent(s) think they’ve picked up information about your hand.

The Why: There are many common tells that poker players look for. By imitating these tells in the right spot you can influence your opponent’s thought process.

The Where: For a reverse tell to be successful your opponent needs to be paying attention, so this move will only work against experienced, thinking players.

The When: The most common time you can use a reverse tell is when you have made a big bet or raise and your opponent is deciding whether to call or fold.

Reverse Tells for Beginners

The essence of a reverse tell is about being able to influence your opponent’s behavior, by feeding him false information.

Daniel Negreanu
Anyone who's good at spotting tells is susceptible to the reverse tell.
 

If you know your opponent has been reading Joe Navarro’s Read ‘Em and Reap, for example, you can take advantage about what he’s learned about poker tells.

Navarro suggests that people tend to get closer physically to their cards and chips when they have a strong hand, and farther away when they’re weak.

Next time you’re bluffing all-in and your opponent looks like he’s having a tough time making a decision, lean into the table and cozy up to those cards like they’re your two best friends.

Advanced Reverse Tells

The next level of reverse tells involves setting up your opponents over the course of a session or sessions.

By making sure the other players take note of a certain behavior or tell, you can use that behavior at an opportune time to force a mistake.

For example, every time you pick up a monster hand and are value-betting or raising, make sure to completely change the topic of conversation, as if to draw attention away from the hand.

If you think your opponent has picked up on it, do the same the next time you’re running a big bluff.

The reverse tell isn’t foolproof, but poker is full of times when players are torn between calling or folding in a tough spot. Sometimes all they need is a nudge in the right direction.

Five Most Common Tells You Can Reverse

For every common tell there’s a simple reversal.

If the tell normally means you’re holding a monster hand, do it when you’re bluffing and give your opponent another reason to fold.

If the tell usually indicates air, make sure to break it out when you’re betting or raising with the nuts.

Phil Hellmuth
If someone hits the flop hard they'll often look away.
 

Here are the top five tells you can reverse:

  • Strong is Weak, Weak is Strong: Most people believe that when a player is holding a strong hand, they’re most likely to act weak in order to confuse their opponent. The reverse is true of someone bluffing. Throwing out bets forcefully, staring down your opponent and speaking with inflated bravado are just some of the ways players act strong.
  • A Shaky Hand Means a Monster: Many players, especially beginners, will be more nervous when they’re holding a monster hand than when they’re bluffing. Hence the idea that when someone’s hand is shaking and jittery when they put out a bet, they’ve probably got the nuts.
  • Staring at or Looking Away from the Flop: Similar to the ‘Strong is Weak’ idea, when a player looks at the flop and then quickly looks away it indicates he likes what he sees and is attempting to look uninterested. When a player is staring at the flop for a long time it usually indicates he has missed.
  • Glancing at Chips: When a player quickly looks at their chips after seeing the flop, it usually means they connected with it somehow.
  • Nonsensical Conversation: If a players is normally very smooth in their conversation and begins to speak nonsensically or clumsily when involved in a massive hand, it’s usually means they’re bluffing.

The Reverse Tell in Action

If you’re still not convinced about the power of the reverse tell, cast your mind back to the 1998 WSOP Main Event.

It was the final hand between Scotty Nguyen and Kevin McBride and there was a full house on the board, eights full of nines.

Scotty had a nine in his hand and pushed McBride over the edge into a call with the famous line, “You call, it’s going to be all over baby.”

Scotty was playing on the common tell that weak means strong and vice versa. He acted strong with a monster and tricked McBride into thinking he was trying to buy the pot.

Skip to 3:00 for the good stuff.


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