The ability to read an opponent’s behavior at the poker table is among the most important elements of the game and one that is quite difficult to master. This is why some beginners and intermediate players tend to focus too much on trying to decipher their opponents’ actions that they forget to pay attention to their opponents’ readily apparent behavior which could tell them a lot of things.
What follows is a list of the usual behaviors and habits displayed by typical players in an entry-level poker session. If you’re playing against them, keeping these things in mind and knowing what they mean will help you in the long run.
Hesitant to Bluff
When some players make bets and raises, they actually mean it. For instance, when they bet, that means they’re holding strong cards, and when they raise, they are confident of being in a superior position. So you need to take note of these behaviors — what you see is what you get; there is nothing hidden behind their actions.
Check-Raising
This move is often avoided by the more-experienced and skilled players especially in no-limit games as they can always size their bets to achieve their desired result. This way, they won’t need to worry about opponents checking them behind. However, amateurs usually take this strategy for granted due to a lack of knowledge.
If you carefully observe the players who usually check-raise, you may check behind them if you feel they’re just trying to set things up. You will get a nice chance to interrupt their strategy and let it work to your advantage.
Three-betting Preflop and Raising Postflop
Most players will not three-bet preflop or raise postflop if they know their cards are not that strong. But take note though that there are some who do exactly the opposite as a strategy to deceive their opponents, cut the field or control the pot size. Take note of this behavior as you play along.
Staring at the Flop
One common behavior among new and intermediate players is staring at the flop. Most of the time, these players stare at the flop without having any hidden motive. So when they stare a bit longer than normal, chances are they are not hitting it. However, when they appear like doing a quick glance, it could mean they have a strong hand.
Slow-Playing
As a player, you must also take into account opponents who slow play and those who often bet their strong hands with value on the line. A huge majority of players know how to slow-play their sets to lure their opponents. Others always bet their strong hands for bigger value. Determining who adopts this strategy will help you stay longer in the game.
Folding
At some point, you will notice players who would quickly position their cards with the intention to fold. If these players often engage in betting action with you, keeping track of this behavior will help your avoid losses
Bad Acting
A lot of poker players adopt the acting strategy in order to lure their opponents. However, these players are most of the time bad actors. They usually sigh to make it appear like they are on the weaker side; if you notice this behavior from your opponents, you can assume that they are actually holding strong cards. Some also resort to chip grabbing to deceive and intimidate other players.
So to win the pot, bet into players who grab chips before their turn, and fold to bets from those who “sigh”.
Engaging in Reverse Tells
This is less common among players, but a few actually fake a popular tell such as staring at the flop for the purpose of deception. Taking note of this behavior will help you make better decisions especially during heads-up play.
To sum it up, the obvious and conscious behaviors coming from your opponents during an entry-level no limit hold’em game can say a lot. So stop decoding the hidden message and focus more on the actual things that players are doing at the poker table. Taking note of them and adjusting your play accordingly will help you win a lot more consistently at the poker table!

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