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The Art of Tells

"I wanna hold 'em like they do in Texas, please. Fold 'em, let 'em hit me, raise it, baby, stay with me (I love it)" -  Lady Gaga

"I wanna hold 'em like they do in Texas, please. Fold 'em, let 'em hit me, raise it, baby, stay with me (I love it)" - Lady Gaga

I encountered the word “tell” after hearing it on TV and in movies. And after hearing it several times, I learned to pick up on its contextual meaning.

On a related note, I began to look into it. It's because I believe I know the tell of one of my colleagues.

Notably, I can predict how she would respond to me. And I knew exactly what to say and do to elicit a specific response from her.

At first, it felt odd. I felt as if I was psychoanalyzing her.

Somewhere down the road, though, it felt somewhat satisfying — not in an evil way, of course.

So here I am, doing in-depth research about tells. I rummaged through the history of tells, common tells, reasons a tell isn't reliable, and the implication of tells.

Oh and I also looked into Mike Caro "The Mad Genius" and his plethora of books about poker tells.

*I’m writing this based on my research about tells in poker

What Is a Poker Tell?

In poker, a "tell" is a mannerism or behavioral trait that gives other players information about the strength of your hand.

For example, a player who has a strong hand might unconsciously sit up straighter or make more eye contact with other players.

Meanwhile, a player who has a weak hand might fidget or avoid eye contact. Some players are very good at concealing their tells, while others may be more transparent.

Tells can be physical like:

"changes in body language or facial expressions"

Poker tells can also be verbal like:

"changes in the tone or cadence of a player's voice"

Experienced players often watch for tells in order to gain an advantage in the game.

However, note that tells are not always reliable indicators of a player's hand, as they can be intentionally or unintentionally misleading.

"Love game intuition, play the cards with spades to start. And after he's been hooked, I'll play the one that's on his heart" - Lady Gaga

"Love game intuition, play the cards with spades to start. And after he's been hooked, I'll play the one that's on his heart" - Lady Gaga

A Brief History of Poker Tells

The concept of tells has been around since the earliest days of poker, and it is an important aspect of the game that players have always tried to exploit.

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Over the years, players have developed a wide range of strategies for detecting and interpreting tells. And these strategies have become an important part of the mental game of poker.

Some players rely on their intuition and experience to pick up on tells, while others use more scientific approaches, such as analyzing statistical data or using software to track and analyze player behavior.

Regardless of the approach, the goal of using tells in poker is to gain an edge over one's opponents by using subtle clues to make more informed decisions about how to play one's hand.

"I wanna roll with him, a hard pair we will be. A little gamblin' is fun when you're with me (I love it)" - Lady Gaga

"I wanna roll with him, a hard pair we will be. A little gamblin' is fun when you're with me (I love it)" - Lady Gaga

10 Common Tells in Poker

  • Bet sizing: Players may vary their bet sizes based on the strength of their hand, with larger bets indicating a stronger hand.
  • Physical tells: Players may reveal information through their body language or facial expressions, such as avoiding eye contact, sweating, or fidgeting.
  • Table talk: Players may reveal information through their conversations at the table, such as discussing their hands or bluffing.
  • Acting out of turn: Players may inadvertently reveal information about their hand by acting before it is their turn, such as reaching for chips or touching their cards.
  • Showing cards: Players may reveal their hands by showing their cards to other players, either intentionally or accidentally.
  • Slow-playing: Players may try to lull their opponents into a false sense of security by betting or raising weak hands slowly, in the hopes of inducing a bluff.
  • Check-raising: Players may try to lure their opponents into betting by checking their strong hands and then raising when their opponent bets.
  • Bluffing: Players may try to represent a strong hand by betting or raising with a weak one, in an attempt to win the pot without a fight.
  • Overbetting: Players may try to represent a strong hand by betting or raising more than the pot size, in an attempt to bully their opponents out of the hand.
  • False tells: Players may intentionally try to mislead their opponents by feigning weakness or strength through their betting patterns or physical mannerisms. It's important to be aware of this possibility and not rely too heavily on tells in poker.
"Russian roulette is not the same without a gun. And baby, when it's love, if it's not rough, it isn't fun (fun)" - Lady Gaga

"Russian roulette is not the same without a gun. And baby, when it's love, if it's not rough, it isn't fun (fun)" - Lady Gaga

Caro's Book of Poker Tells

The Reasons a “Tell” Isn’t Reliable

  • People can fake tells: Some people are skilled at hiding their emotions or disguising their true intentions, which can make it difficult to rely on tells as a reliable indicator of what they are thinking or feeling.
  • Not everyone has the same tells: Different people may exhibit different tells when they are feeling a certain emotion or trying to hide something. This means that even if you are familiar with someone's tells, they may not always behave in the same way.
  • Context is important: The context in which a tell is displayed can also affect its reliability. For example, a person may exhibit a tell when they are feeling nervous in one situation but not in another.
  • Tells can be subtle: Some tells are very subtle and may be easy to miss if you are not paying close attention.
"I won't tell you that I love you, kiss or hug you 'cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin I'm not lyin', I'm just stunnin' with my love-glue-gunnin', just like a chick in the casino" - Lady Gaga

"I won't tell you that I love you, kiss or hug you 'cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin I'm not lyin', I'm just stunnin' with my love-glue-gunnin', just like a chick in the casino" - Lady Gaga

The Implication of Tells

The implications of poker tells depend on how you use them.

Important points to remember:

  1. Tells are nonverbal cues that people unconsciously give off. They give it off when they are feeling a certain emotion or trying to hide something.
  2. They can provide valuable information about what someone is thinking or feeling, but it is important to be aware of their limitations and use them in context.

Do you use tells to try to understand someone's thoughts or intentions? Then, consider other factors, too.

For example, you might consider their words and actions, as well as the context in which the tell was displayed.

Also, be aware that people can fake tells or may not exhibit the same tells in every situation. This means that tells should not be relied on as a sole source of information when trying to understand someone.

Using poker tells appropriately can help you in certain situations (like in negotiations or when trying to build rapport with someone).

However, be mindful of the limitations of tells and not rely on them too heavily.

Conclusion

The thing is, my colleague and I don’t play poker. Our conversations were bubble wrapped with professional work details.

That said, tells aren’t just in poker. They inched their way into my everyday life — the reason I chose to name this piece “The Art of Tells”.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Tanya Marie Porras

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