Don’t get ga-ga about your poker face
Posted by Dave Bremner on 05 Mar 2010 at 13:03
In last week’s blog I mentioned that I’m rubbish at reading tells. Turns out, having spoken to people over the weekend, that I’m not the only one. What’s more, unless you’re playing at the very highest levels of poker it seems it really doesn’t matter.
Most people know one thing about poker: you’ve got to be able to lie with a straight face. Otherwise you reveal your hand and have no chance of winning.
People don full hoods and shades to hide their faces through fear of having “tells”. Others claim they’re great at it: we’d all know Lady Ga-Ga was bluffin’ with her muffin, apparently, but we can’t read her poker face.
It seems that this fear is mostly unjustified. A 2005 study revealed that a quarter of men and a third of all women can’t tell a fake smile from a real one, for example.
Other “tells” are so small that your opponents just won’t spot them. They’re too busy calculating pot odds or figuring how many outs they’ve got – or worrying what their own tells are revealing.
Even in online poker there are tells: behavioural ones. Some people will only make a pre-flop raise from an early position when they’re holding pocket aces or A-K suited, or when they’re bluffing, for example.
If you can work out who those people are: great. But unless, as I said before, you’re playing at the very highest levels, that information is pretty much worthless.
So you know they’re either holding a great pre-flop hand or they’re not: well, you pretty much knew that anyway.
Whether you call or re-raise them will depend on a load of other factors: what stage you’re at in the tournament, what’s in your own hand, the relative sizes of your chip stacks and so on.
The best players in other games have a maxim: focus on your own game. Let the other guy worry about you, not the other way around.
For most regular poker players, that’s great advice. Perhaps it won’t help you win at a WSOP final table, but maybe you should cross that bridge when you come to it.
I’m going to buy shades and a hoodie in preparation.
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