Poker success is mainly determined by how you make judgments at the table. Bad decisions often stem from the lack of ability to read people. Poker is a mental game. You need to observe and understand the patterns and physical cues of your opponents if you want to elevate your gameplay. Highly-successful players do it, and they are good at it. It isn’t as easy as it seems and requires a lot of time and effort to hone, but with constant practice, you will get there.
The Basics
Players give away some cues about their hand in two ways – betting patterns and physical movements. You can tell if an opponent has a weak or strong hand by studying his or her bets. Similarly, you can also observe your opponents’ behavior and make decisions accordingly.
Choosing your opponents is also a factor to consider before playing. Before starting a session, take your time to observe the players around you. Watch their habits everytime they call or fold a bet, or when they bluff. After that, proceed and sit down at the table made up of players whom you think are easier to read. It will give you better chances of winning.
Once you start playing, you can adopt these useful tips for reading your opponents:
Avoid Looking At The Flop
As much as possible, do not look at your cards after they’re dealt. Instead, pay your attention to the reaction of your opponents the moment they get a first look at their cards. You will most likely get an idea whether or not they have a strong hand. If a player looks away instantly, he or she might have a good hand, so be cautious.
Also, do not constantly check your cards as your opponents will also be watching your reactions. If you have good memory, checking once will do. As the game progresses, some players will take a look at their flop more often because they want to know what suite they have. The wisest thing you can do is not to place bets against them.
Watch Out For Deceptive Tactics
Most players will apply visual tactics to deceive their opponents. For example, a player might make a smacking sound, known as the “poker clack” to give a false impression that they are sad or have a weak hand, when the reality is the exact opposite. Avoid calling bets from these opponents.
Other players also want their opponents to believe they are sad because they have a bad hand. Be careful because they might also deceiving you. Also watch out for players who suddenly become nervous as they might be having a very strong hand and are just trying hard not to show excitement.
Other common physical indicators of a strong hand are eyes that aren’t blinking, frequent staring at the flop, rapid breathing, and putting on a relaxed smile.
Find Clues By Observing Overall Behavior
There are two kinds of poker players – the loud players, and the quiet ones. Loose players are often loud when they buy chips and are more likely to bluff. They are also not afraid to place riskier bets. You can tell if a player is loose by paying attention to how they pile their stacks. If they’re messy, then that player most probably falls in that category.
On the contrary, quiet players take the conservative approach. They talk less and concentrate on studying their opponents. Their chips are also arranged properly. Calling a bet indicates a very strong hand, so be extra careful.
Be The Quiet Player
As stated above, being quiet while playing allows you to focus on the game and observe the habits and patterns of your opponents. Avoid talking too much and instead listen closely to your opponents’ verbal cues. Keep track of changes to their intonation and pitch, and listen to the way they talk – it will give away important clues about the strength of their hand.
There is simply no shortcut to successfully implementing poker tells, but the key here is to observe, observe, observe, and never stop learning. By doing this, you will eventually learn to separate the real tells from the fake ones.