Many people believe that playing live poker is the only way to play because there are many good tells you can use to gain an edge over the opposition.
However, you shouldn't make decisions solely based on tells. Instead, think of each hand as a puzzle, with tells being a small piece. You want to add up different pieces of information to complete the puzzle.
The problem with tells is that most people rely almost exclusively on them and end up making the wrong decisions because they fail to incorporate other vital information into their game. Equally important factors are how an opponent is betting, what type of player they are, what their current mood is and how they've played in the past.
Let's talk about the following tells and how you can use them to exploit the players at your table.
- Chip Loading
- Betting Patterns
- Looking Away
- Staring at You
- Tentative vs. Laid Back Posture
Of all the tells, chip loading is probably my favorite. Chip loading is when a player glances down at his chip stack immediately after getting his cards. The reason he does this is because he has a good hand and is already planning on betting. He wants to figure out how much he needs to bet to get the most value from his hand. You will catch a player doing this from time to time; just pick out one or two to look at after a hand is dealt.
After a chip load, a player will almost always raise the pot. This gives you a great idea of his holdings. From there you just have to figure out what kind of hands he likes to play and narrow down his card possibilities. Also look at your opponent on the flop. If he seems to have hit a draw, watch him as the dealer turns the card for the turn or river. He might immediately look down at his chips as the card is turned, as if to bet. When he does this you can safely fold your hand.
Betting patterns are pretty self-explanatory: just watch how your opponents bet, the speed of their bets, and how much they bet. You will notice that a lot of players raise their starting hands differently. If you can pick up on this you'll own them. When they show down a hand they had raised pre-flop, always try and remember how much they raised on it.
When a player looks away during a big hand, she is afraid to intimidate you. These are the players to fear the most. They want to show you that they are weak and uninterested in the hand. Always be careful when a player refuses to look at you or acts timid during a hand.
Staring at You
When a player stares directly at you it is usually a bluff and he's trying to intimidate you into folding. Don't fall for this. If you have a decent hand you might want to give it a call.
Posture is a great tell. I've noticed that the majority of my friends sit back in their chairs when they don't have hands. When they get a hand they'll immediately sit up in their chair or tap their feet or fingers. This is because they have a hand they're interested in. If they're leaning back with their arms crossed they probably don't care about the current hand. If you see them quickly sit up or start moving around, you may want to get out of the pot.