In most casino games, like slots, blackjack, and roulette, you play against the “house”—or the dealer/machine. It all comes down to smart play and luck. However, with certain games, like Texas Hold’em Poker for one, you are playing against other people, not the house. When you play against the other people at the table, you must consider another element in your gameplay. You will have to “read” your opponent. Not only does it matter what cards you hold, but also it matters whether you can beat the cards your opponent holds or if you can convince them to fold. The key to reading your opponent is spotting his or her tells. Here are five tips that can help you hone this important skill.
- Watch for Speed – The best players play at a consistent speed, no matter what cards they hold. However, you may be able to catch a player with a tell of playing a strong hand faster or a weak hand slower (or possibly vice versa). Pay attention to the speed at which your opponents check and bet every round and look for inconsistencies.
- Protection – One of the most common tells is the tendency to want to “protect” good hand. Look for your opponent to look to cover up a hand that is particularly good. Perhaps he or she will want to hold it closer or even cover it with a poker chip.
- Looking Back at Cards – When a player has a big hand, he or she is more likely to look back and check his or her hole cards. This is done to make sure they are “correct”. A player who keeps looking back at his cards is more likely happy with his hand than unhappy!
- Opposite Behavior – People tend to want to “act” at the table. If they are strong, they will want to act weak, and if they are weak, they will want to act strong. This is one of the classic tells—especially among people new to the game.
- Tremble – A person who has trembling hands most likely has a big hand. It might be time to fold—unless you have a monster!
The most important thing to remember about tells is that they are not a guarantee. Some players are better actors than others or are better at hiding their tells. Other players may not exhibit the classic tells and show an entirely different selection of behaviors. The best thing you can do is to spend time watching the players at your table and look for inconsistencies in their play. The moments that sway from the norm are the ones that you need to pay the most attention to—this is when the player likely has a big hand or a big bluff in the works!