Strategy 2 Game Guide

How to Eradicate Poker Tells


Poker Tells– How to Eradicate Poker Tells

Learning to eradicate your poker tells is a great way to making you a more inscrutable – and thus better – poker player.

What is a tell?

Are you married? In a long term relationship? Chances are, your partner can tell when you're happy or when you're sad, without you saying a word. They've known you for long enough that just by looking at you, they're able to read what you're feeling.

Oh, and they can totally tell when you're lying. Don't kid yourself, they do. How is it that they have this dark power? Are they mind readers?

Well, possibly. But it's far more likely that they've noticed your tells. Tells are little involuntary behaviours that you get when when you feel certain things. For example, and really obviously, if we see someone cracking a great, warm smile, we assume they're feeling happy. Tears streaming down their face? They're probably sad ... or have been chopping onions recently.

Poker tells

With poker, obviously, it's a lot more subtle that that. You do not want to ever give away what you are feeling, at any time. With such a small amount of data available, other players will be watching you like a hawk to pick up any detail they can about what you think of the hole cards in front of you.

It is your job, as much as possible, to never let on how you truly feel about a given hand. But because you're suppressing your normal emotional response, they manifest in weird and unexpected ways.

Maybe you find that unconsciously you start playing with your nose when you get pocket aces. Or chewing the inside of your lip when things aren't going so well. Or blinking a lot when you get stressed. Maybe your pinkie starts to tap involuntarily.

All of these behaviours are giving your opponents information about what you're feeling. You have to shut them down.

How to eradicate your poker tells

Adopt physical strategies that conceal your emotion. A great example of what I mean is the way Stanislav Alekhin was dressed at the World Series of Poker Europe 2008. He had on a gangster style hoodie pullover and a big pair of completely dark sunglasses. He looked like a total dork, but he also largely succeeded in concealing what he was feeling.

The hood prevented many players from seeing his profile, and the shades prevented anyone from seeing his eyes. He sat there, dark and impassive – and yes, looking ridiculous – and proceeded to decimate most of the field.

Interestingly, he came in second to John Juanda who was dressed like a normal person, but then heads up play is a totally different game – far less about strategy and more about clubbing the other person with a big stick until they run away crying.

The point is, you will want to take steps to not show any emotion during the game. Some players I know even go so far as to take beta-blockers before a game – I wonder if this counts as sports doping?

Then, once you have your tells under control, you can start to let them out to mislead people as part of your bluffing strategy.

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