Posted by Junelli 2:09 PM
I wanted to add to the great articles provided by John & Craig. When I play I watch for the following things:
1. "Over" acting when the cards come out. You can usually tell if someone liked the flop by subtle moves (shake of the head, frown, etc.), but the key word is subtle. If they're obvious about their unhappiness, it could be that they're actually very happy. Make a note of the people who act and are deceptive, and remember who they are. Then when you're in the hand, ask yourself, "is he acting?" and if so, "what does he want me to do?" Then do the opposite.
2. Double or triple checking hole cards (especially before the flop). I've noticed that when people get monsters hands like AA or KK, they tend to double check their hole cards (I've caught myself doing it too). Maybe because they want to make sure they saw them correctly before they go crazy betting, and/or maybe just because looking down at AA or KK is a beautiful thing. Beware the guy who checks his hole cards more than once before the flop, and then comes out swinging.
3. What are their "draw" habits? Do they raise when they're on a draw (to get a free card)? Do they just call? This will help you later determine if you're up against a made hand or a drawing hand.
4. What's their magic threshold amount for a bet? Most people get comfortable with betting/calling/raising within a certain amount (i.e. less than $50). Make a bet over their comfort zone, and it's that much tougher for them to call. For instance at Northside, I notice that a $25 and $50 bet is nothing and hardly gets noticed. Therefore, if I want a fold, I need to bet more than that. $100 or more seems to be the magic number in that most people (in that game) aren't comfortable calling a $100 bet (unless they're very strong). For others the bet may be lower. Pay attention and always keep in mind what a player's threshold is.
5. Avoid the guy on the rush. I know this isn't really a "tell" to watch for, but it is still something to consider. Pay attention to who's hot. I know you're likely pissed off because that idiot is winning, but don't make the mistake of wanting to go up against him when he's hitting his cards. You should try to avoid these people and wait until their cards cool off (they always do). Instead set your sights on the short stacks, the people who are tilting because they just lost a big pot, or the people who are stuck and having a miserable night.
6. I like to watch their eyes when the flop comes out. It's not definite, but I've found that if a player sees the flop and then immediately looks down at his chips he's strong. If he looks to the other players he's weak.
7. Re-checking hole cards. Obvious one here. If there's a 3 flush on the board, and he re-checks, it's because he remembers that one of his cards matched up, but the other one didn't. He hasn't hit his flush yet. This also can apply to straights. They might be trying to figure out how their cards fit into the board for a straight.
8. Reverse tells. If someone contradicts any of the items listed above (re-checks hole cards when he already has a flush, etc.), I'll remember that player as being deceptive. Beware a strong player who throws off these tells.
9. Fast-Playing a monster. Most players will slowplay a strong hand like a set or a full house. However, I've come across some players who are first to act, and fire out a big bet when they hit their hand. If the player is weak, he's doing it because he doesn't know any better. If the player is strong it's because he's making an advanced move and expecting that no one will give him credit for hitting his hand. It's a risky move, but can pay off quite well.
10. I don't really watch preflop hand selection too much, because most people can play any two cards (myself included). Instead I pay attention to players "Raising Hands" and hands they'll call raises with. Most times it's Sklansky Group I, II, and III hands. I notice if it's anything less.
11. How do people check? Sometimes people with strong hands, waiting to trap someone, will check their hand a little differently than if they're hand was weak. Do they say check louder? Rap their hand harder? Check with extra interest in the action? Check while acting entirely disinterested? If they subseuqnetly check-raise, I try to think back about how they checked in the first place.
12. Recreate the hand when you get to a showdown. Johnny Mac discussed this in more detail, but anytime you get to a showdown, and get to see cards, it's helpful to try and recreate the action and see how the hand developed.
13. Size of bet. See Friou's post about varying betting amounts. I always pay attention to how much a person typically bets.
14. Is the person trying to buy the pot and get me to fold right here? Are their actions, conduct, bet sizes, etc. all signs that they do not want a call? If so a raise might be in order.
15. How does a person play middle or bottom pair? I like to be able to know whether or not a person will be a calling station with middle or bottom pair. That way I know my hand is good unless they come alive when: the board pairs, a high card comes off hitting their kicker, etc.
16. Who raises preflop? Some people hardly ever do. If those people are to your left, you can limp into the pot more often. If they do finally raise, respect it and fold.
That's all I can think of right now. I hope this was worth reading.