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Tells aren't a big deal
 by Mike the Dealer

Tells aren’t a big deal

People often ask me what sort of tells do players give off in poker games, how can they pick off a bluff, or how can they fold 
with confidence knowing they are beat. The fact is you’ll rarely if ever pick up a tell on somebody that’s 100% accurate. 
Following how a person bets their hands during a session and studying their betting patterns is far more likely to lead you 
to coming to the right conclusion. All this said, I have a few simple things to watch for tells.

“It’s time to go home”

When people say this, what matters is *when* they say it. If they say it pre flop and then push all in, they generally have a garbage hand and are in fact trying to lose their last few dollars, normally between 20 and 50 bucks at a 1-2 No Limit game. They are really tired, they are on tilt, and they want to gamble to either grow their stack a bit, or to lose everything and get some much needed shut-eye. If you have an ace in your hand and you’re up for gambling, you should most likely give them a call, odds are they have two random cards and are really throwing their money away.

Often times on this play nobody will take the player’s action and the player will turn over Ten-Six or some other such garbage and say “I was trying to go home!” he will most likely play stupid and go broke shortly, but only one person gets his money, make it be you!

Now the other “It’s time to go home” statement is said post flop, and even most so, after the river has been dealt, when this player says “It’s time to go home” and they move all in…FOLD! They have the nuts, or very close to it, now they are lying and pretending to be weak when they have an absolute monster of a hand.  You are giving your money away when you call this person.

The next tell is the ‘shrinking bet’. This isn’t a tell so much as it is a betting pattern. A person raises pre flop, and then after the flop, they bet, you call them, then on the turn, they bet less then they did on the flop. This is a *giant* sign of weakness, you should blast them with a raise almost on general principle. The person making this bet hates their hand, but at the same time they feel compelled to make a bet. You should feel the need to make them feel compelled to fold. When a person who’s raised pre flop and bet the flop suddenly starts betting smaller, they are begging you to steal the pot from them, so be nice to them and do so.

The final tell I see is the ‘agonizing all in’. This is another ‘weak-when-strong’ tell and it’s pretty much a given. A person with the nuts or next to it will wince, struggle, sigh, rock back in their chair, get up and walk around the table, all the time bemoaning how they can’t believe what the board is, and then finally they shall go all in. If you ever call this person without the nuts you’re a fool. They are putting on this giant show for you just to get you to give them your money. They do this song and dance to lure you into paying them off. All that matters on the river (Where this almost always happens) is your opponent’s action. If your opponent moved all in on the river, what does it matter that he was whining about how that club came on the turn? He’s all in, you have to think about what hands he’d be willing to do that with, not his attempts at performance art. Rest assured our aspiring actor has you crushed, just throw your hand away, say ‘nice hand’ and move along. People who rely on such silliness to win are never going to be winners in the long term.

Questions, comments, or anything at all, be sure to send them to

I'd like to add my two cents worth:
Hollywood has a lot of wannabe poker players, 
but you wouldn't know it by the crap they produce.

On TV or in the movies, the tell is always more obvious than a rhinos mating in the room.
It's always something extra stupid like, "He pulls on his ear when he's bluffing."
Trust me - that never happens.

In Rounders (Ed Norton, Matt Damon) John Malkovich had a tell - he played 
with his Oreo cookies when he was bluffing - how stupid can you get?

Also in the how-stupid-can-you-get catagory, after Matt Damon wins his friend's life back 
from the loan shark/killers, he decides to keep playing because he's on a hot streak.
Really, Matt?
You want to gamble with (and severely anger) the cold-blooded killers when you have
the option to walk away and live the rest of your life?

Another pet peeve of mine came up in the James Bond movie Casino Royale with Daniel Craig.
To make things overly dramatic, in the big poker finale, one guy had a straight, one guy had a flush,
one guy had a full house, one guy had a bigger full house and, of xourse, Bond had a straight flush
which beats everybody but - that never, ever happens.

The biggest pot ever on High Stakes Poker was over a million dollars
and Doyle Brunson won with a pair of nines.  That's the reality of poker.

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