We had Zach Elwood, author of the critically acclaimed book “Reading Poker Tells” answering questions from the forum recently, and we thought we’d condense his gems of wisdom into some sections. This one is give Zach’s conclusions.
“There are many types of tells that apply to a wide population. Those are the ones I go into in the book; a lot of them are already known by many people, although I think I’ve added to the general knowledge a bit with some that I’ve never seen written about before.
But I also think you need to first observe a player and see if they are giving off those common tells. Even though everyone is indeed different, the benefit of having an internal catalogue of common behavior lets you more easily and quickly check a player for that behavior, to see if they have those types of tells. If they don’t, you can stop studying them and concentrate on something else. If they seem to have imbalanced behavior, then keep studying them and see where the imbalance is coming from.
So while everyone is different, many people will have a common tell or two, or three.”
“It definitely takes a conscious effort (to ensure you are not displaying any tells). Unless you’re a robot. I’ve probably learned the most about tells just studying my own tendencies and trying to figure out why I was doing whatever it was. Similar to improving our own fundamental strategy, it takes honesty and self-awareness to study ourselves.
For example, next time you are value-betting, try to be conscious of how exactly you are acting. Where are you looking? How fast are you betting? How are you setting your chips down? Are you moving your body much? Are you sitting up straight or slumped? Are you making eye contact with your opponent or avoiding it? Try to remember all these things and compare them to the next time you’re making a significant bluff. What has changed and why?
I think the top-notch players have made very conscious efforts to become unreadable. For me, it takes a very conscious effort.
The saving grace is that most people, by and large, aren’t paying attention to this stuff, so nobody should be getting too stressed out about it. If you’re playing pretty high, that’s when you should be maybe getting worried about it.”
What do you think about Zach’s conclusions? Do you think your body language is costing you value? Do you deliberately use your body language to try and get more value?