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The more poker you play, the more tells you will be able to recognize in players through that experience. It may be looking up that you catch a glimpse of something new that takes your eye and, if you follow through with that knowledge of how the hand plays out, it is a eureka moment.
There is a need to understand that you must be consistent in your own actions because all your opponents will be watching closely for your tells.
1. Avoid Eye Contact
I was lucky in my live poker career that my glasses were reactor light lenses and acted as sunglasses, which limits your opponent’s reads.
Some opponents will try and make eye contact with you to make you feel awkward, even a little intimidated. Others will be pleasant and talk constantly, but on both occasions, they will be taking notice of your eye movements covertly.
2. Avoid Giving False Reads
One of the most common poker tells is many players try too hard to give opponents false reads with their play-acting. Things like making strong eye contact can be easily recognised by experienced players as feigning strength, while on other occasions trying to look weak to provoke action from an opponent when you have a strong holding will also be see-through to them once again.
Many players believe acting is a huge part of the game of poker, but I hark back to my opening paragraph from the introduction when I talked about being consistent in your actions. This will mean you are able to trust yourself, that your opponents are getting the minimum tells, and spend every opportunity trying to recognize their tells.
3. Try to Control Your Nerves
Showing nerves is often a huge tell and it is easier said than done, but to control them is hugely important to your development as a poker player. Live poker has many players adept at trash-talking to try and get a read on you. This is an attempt to get you “at it” and lose your concentration. They may even do it in the middle of your hand, which will naturally increase the pressure on you when it is your time to count your chips and bet. I suggest avoiding such interactions with opponents, as your heart rate will naturally rise, which could escalate into making your hands tremble.
The are many techniques to control your breathing and I suggest finding one that works for you. The ability to keep your heart rate stable will naturally help the consistency to limit your opponent’s from getting tells on you.
Having the ability to handle your chips proficiently will only come with practice, so we suggest when you’re alone at home, or even at online poker sites, practice your handling so they become second nature when in live play.
4. Posture and Demeanor
Again, posture and demeanor are interlinked with an innate ability to discipline yourself to a consistent process when playing poker. Any sudden changes in posture are bound to be noticed by the other players at the table. It may be that you’ve looked down at pocket Aces and suddenly sat up. That would be an immediate tell for your opponents.
5. Keep a Low Profile
The lower profile you can keep at the poker table the less scrutiny you bring on yourself. This has many positive aspects to help your poker game because there is a saying that if you cannot spot the idiot on your poker table, it could be you! When you’ve kept a low profile, once you become more aggressive in your play at the later stages of tournaments or pivotal moments of a cash game, you will naturally garner more respect from your opponents.
This respect is huge because the more hands and chips you win without ever reaching a showdown will be the difference between being a profitable player and an also-ran.
Joe Wager Conclusion
The overriding theme of the article was to practice and prepare thoroughly for live poker play. Otherwise, you will give away your subtle tells to your opponents, such as the five we identified.
- Avoid eye contact.
- Avoid trying to give false reads.
- Control your nerves through breathing techniques.
- Posture and demeanor are important.
- Keeping a low profile.
Once you’ve mastered these dark arts of poker you will be ready to subtly take charge of your poker table while others think they are the boss.