It’s been a lot of fun playing live poker after the high volume I’ve been playing online. Most online tells come from betting patterns. Dedicating yourself to reviewing online hand histories will give you a tremendous edge playing live because those same betting patterns ring true AND you get the attitude, image and physical tells of the players at your table. That’s why I find live poker to be so much easier than online.
You have to be cautious of false tells or when some players appear weak with hands that are actually better than yours. Sometimes they convey strength because they’re not that experienced and they may overvalue the relative strength of their hands causing you to fold a better hand. It’s OK to fold the better hand, of course. If you don’t do that quite a bit you’re simply calling too lightly and will get yourself in a lot of trouble.
I had a hand in a Venetian $1K tournament that illustrates both the betting patterns and physical tells and how I was able to use them to make a call that I may not have been able to make online.
I raised in middle position with A-10, affectionately known as the “Cosenza” in the Ante Up Nation. Only the big blind called. He was a pretty loose player and didn’t like to fold his big blind very often, so I expected him to call. The flop was –– and my opponent checked. I bet my standard two-thirds pot and he called.
At this point I thought he might have a queen or a flush draw, but I didn’t suspect a king or a set because he most likely would raise to protect his hand against the possible draws. Your opponents won’t always do this, but more often than not I find they protect or “see where they’re at.”
The turn was the and he checked again. I checked behind for pot control and to take a free shot at my gutshot straight. This will help me evaluate on the river what to do. If I bet and get raised, I obviously have to fold, so I would rather get to the river cheaper and possibly get to showdown with ace-high if he was on the draw and missed. I know if a spade comes and he bets I probably will have to fold. The river was the and my opponent made a near pot-sized bet. Now what?
Well, like I said, I really didn’t think my opponent had a king, so why did he make such a big bet? If he had a queen, I would have expected him to check-call a bet. If he had flopped a set, I think he would have check-raised the flop hoping I had a king, especially with the flush draw out there. I also think he might’ve led into me on the turn, so this all made it seem like he was bluffing. Yes, he could have a king or a set that just turned into a full house, but because of the betting patterns, I have to trust the hundreds of thousands of hands I’ve played and rule that out here.
So, I go into the tank a bit and start cutting out chips while keeping my eyes on his hands and cards. Each time I move with the chips, he acts like he is ready to flip the cards over, indicating he wants a call and he’s about to flip over the nuts. So, I go back to my chips several times, counting my stack, looking at the amount set aside that I would have to call, and his “about to flip the nuts” action gets more exaggerated with the cards coming a little higher each time. Suffice to say, I have used this little trick successfully and unsuccessfully in the past, and I was 100 percent sure he didn’t want a call. I trusted the read and made the call. He sighed and said “jack-high” and showed –. It would be a silly call based on just betting patterns here. It’s possible I may have been able to make this call online because his story really didn’t add up to be able to bet the river.
I’m not bragging here, just showing if you put in the time to practice, really pay attention to betting patterns, take your time to really put a hand together, it will help you make calls you might not otherwise make. Keep in mind most of the time your opponents will have the hands they’re representing. The betting patterns will help you with that, but if you trust yourself when the betting story doesn’t make sense, you just might be able to snap off a bluff in the right spot. I also wanted to point out this physical tell of people acting like they are excited to flip their cards.
When someone has a strong hand, they’re more likely going to remain still so as not to dissuade you from calling. If they really have a monster, why would they let you know they’re about to flip the nuts as quickly as possible? You can also use this against your better opponents when you DO have the nuts and you want them to call.
Work on your game, pay attention to all of the hands you see whether you’re involved or not and learn the tendencies of players and betting patterns. Combine that with reliable physical information when playing live and trust your instincts! The more time you put in and the more hands you see, those gut feelings will be reliable.
Decide To Win!
— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Go to www.acumenpoker.net.