In this post, I’m going to describe my analysis of Sylvain Loosli that I did prior to and during the 2013 WSOP Main Event final table. I had been hired by Amir Lehavot to analyze his opponents and himself for possible behavioral leaks. The point of this post is not just to talk about how I went about trying to find patterns in Loosli and what those patterns may have been, it’s also to talk about the difficulty in trying to do this kind of analysis.
A couple weeks before the WSOP Main Event final table, I got an email from Amir Lehavot, asking if I’d be interested in helping him prepare for the final table. After discussing what I might be able to do to help him, and making sure we had similar expectations, I agreed. My role was to analyze existing footage of his opponents for possible behavioral patterns, and to be present for a final table simulation that Lehavot was doing, and look for possible patterns he might have. During the final table, I was also watching the 15-minute-delay broadcast in a hotel room, weighing in occasionally with my thoughts through Skype.
This year, during the World Series of Poker Main Event broadcast, my book Reading Poker Tells got a shout-out from Norman Chad. Here’s the clip; go to the 1hr1m point if it doesn’t automatically take you there.
I’d sent a copy of Reading Poker Tells to Norman a few months ago, but I’ve sent out so many books over the past year to people (roughly $4,000 worth!) and haven’t heard back from many people, so I honestly wasn’t expecting a shout-out, so that was nice. Norman DMed me on Twitter and let me know he was going to mention it in the WSOP broadcast, but I didn’t know what episode it would be.
As to what Norman says here; I would have rather he said that my book says that SOME bluffers have the tendency to avoid eye contact, not all. I think it’s an important distinction; my point in the book was to study someone’s past behavior in post-bet spots (after they’ve made a significant bet) and see if you can spot any pattern with regards to how much eye contact they give an opponent. Some people will look at their opponents more when they’re relaxed and have a big hand, and they’ll avoid eye contact when bluffing, whereas some people are the opposite. And of course many people are very consistent and stoic with what they do after they bet and you won’t be able to get anything from them. It all depends on past correlation of behavior.
In this case, I have no idea whether Kaplan was exhibiting an actual poker tell. It’s impossible to tell from one hand; I don’t recommend doing “cold-reads” of players unless you are very experienced and have a good sense for those kinds of things. I glanced through this episode and didn’t see another significant hand to compare Kaplan’s behavior here with. To do this right, you’d want to get a few hands of Kaplan value-betting and a few hands of him bluffing and then look at them side by side to see if you spot a pattern.
I sent Norman Chad a follow-up email with some other poker tells observations I’d made. I’ve been watching so many WSOP episodes in the past few weeks, mostly old ones, and I had a few observations I thought he’d find interesting. I’ve been watching so much televised poker because I’ve been working on a new poker tells book and so I’ve been taking notes on a lot of actual hands from televised events.
Just a couple interesting spots from some recent hands where someone’s behavior played a role in my decision-making.
First one is from $1-2 NL. I had about $700 and the guy directly to my left had about $600. A couple limpers in front of me. I limp with 46 of diamonds. The guy directly to my left was an older guy who was “tricky”, and who liked to make small raises pre-flop as pot-builders in multi-way pots. The kind of thing somewhat skilled players like to do in passive games to build the pots and get paid off if they hit. I’d seen him do this a few times, whereas he’d raise bigger pre with legitimate hands.
This isn’t related to poker tells or behavior in any way. Just a hand I played yesterday that I spent a lot of time thinking about so I thought I’d share it.
It was a $2-5 game. I only have $400 in front of me. I usually am significantly deeper and my shorter stack plays a role in this hand. This game can vary from super loose to mostly tight and it was in the mostly tight range yesterday. In this hand, UTG and UTG+1 both limp, as does a middle position player and the SB. I’m in the BB w/ TT and I check. So it’s 5-way to the flop of 67T rainbow.
I’ve decided to devote myself full-time over the next few months to writing another poker tells book. I’d told myself that I wouldn’t write another poker tells book unless I felt I could really say something entirely new, and I think this new book will accomplish that. It will be 90% new material; not just a rehash of the same kinds of content in my first book.
What’s it about? I don’t want to go into too much detail at this point, but it will be focusing on a specific area of poker behavior that’s not gotten much attention in the past. When I get further along and closer to being finished, I’ll feel more comfortable talking about the content in detail.
The book will be around $30 I think, and I’ve set up a $50 pre-order that gets you advance content and updates on the status; kind of a behind-the-scenes look at the process. I’m also going to put the names of the people who pre-order in a special Acknowledgements section of the book; kind of a ‘thanks for your support’ section (unless people don’t want their names in there.) While I’ll write the book with or without pre-orders, it is nice to get a little income over the many months I’ve decided to devote to this thing. And it helps me to stay focused knowing there are people waiting for it.
I played in 3 of the WSOP 1.5K events this summer, and a few other $500+ buy-in tournaments. I am not much of a tournament player, to be honest. I’ve only played maybe 60 live tournaments and just a few HU SNGs online. I used to hate tournaments and only in the last couple of years started to play more of them, slowly starting to appreciate the specific kinds of talents they require. I had a good ROI off the tournaments I’d played but I also knew it was a very small sample size. I know there’s some people who eat and breathe tournament strategy and that those people are far ahead of me in many aspects. Still, I thought I had a good edge on amateur players, so I thought I’d be +EV in most tournaments.
I’ve been much more attuned to bet-timing tells lately, just going out of my way to study it more. I think bet-timing tells are responsible for a lot of the more subtle reads of situations that experienced players can get. I also think a lot of the time this stuff can be analyzed in an instinctual way by experienced players. For instance, in the hand I’m going to describe, I think a lot of experienced players would have had a similar read on the situation without necessarily realizing a lot of it had to do with bet-timing tells.
Played $2-5 NL today and this hand went down. I raise from CO with 8c8d to $20. I get a call from the big blind. We have a little bit of history because he’s a bit steamed from a hand an hour or so ago where I value-bet a flush for a lot of money on the turn and he made a bad call for all his chips with a straight and lost. I get the feeling he’s a bit steamed at me or at least wants to get some chips back from me. My view of him: he’s a bit too loose and prone to not give people credit for hands. I have not seen him get too out of line with anyone before, but I think it’s possible he will make a move on me.Continue reading →
There’s a lot of information at the poker table. Which is why I don’t wear headphones. I never want to restrict the possible auditory information I might pick up. A hand I played in Vegas a couple weeks ago illustrates this point very nicely…
This is a $2-5 hand I played the other day. This one was interesting because my opponent’s actions added up to make me suspicious enough to make a river call, in a spot that I ordinarily would have folded from a fundamental perspective. It’s also interesting because he was doing a lot of stuff (like talking and showing his neighbor his cards) that will usually mean a good hand, but in this case things didn’t add up and his post-bet behavior seemed more desperate than confident.
This past weekend I played in several tournaments at Wild Horse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. I played a $200, a $300, and a $500 buy-in. I had some pretty bad luck, but I also did some stupid stuff that probably contributed to my lousy showing. For one thing, I had scheduled a 30-minute phone interview right in the middle of the $200 tournament, which caused me to be blinded and anted down from above an average stack to significantly below one. I should have just postponed the interview, which I could have done, but I don’t like to cancel on people when the scheduling is my fault. So that contributed to me not doing well in that one and also threw my mood off a bit for the $300 tournament the next day.
There was one very interesting hand from a poker tells perspective, where my read on an opponent helped me survive getting a full house beaten.
I recently quit a full-time job I was working for the past 9 months in order to focus on some personal projects, including playing more poker and working on a video project related to my book. I’m trying to sell some pieces for a WSOP tournament package (6 tourneys) I put together, which you can read about here. (Update: I’ve sold this package out.)
I won’t exaggerate my tournament experience; I have been mainly a cash game player and I’ve only played about 40 live multi-table tournaments, although my results are good and lately I’ve felt very confident in these events. I am of course aware that this is a very small sample size. To offset my far-from-proven MTT track record a bit, I’m not charging the 10-20% mark-up that more proven people charge on selling tournament pieces. I’m charging no mark-up, so a piece is a piece.
What else? I’m going to playing in a few tourneys this weekend; $200, $300, and $500 tourneys in Pendleton, Oregon. Apparently they get good turnouts there.
In preparation for the WSOP events, I’m also going to be playing some MTTs online, which I’ve never done, and reading more 2+2 forum strategy talk. I’ll try to post some questions on 2+2 about any interesting or troublesome hands I have in the next few tournaments I play.
I received an interesting email from Daniel Steinberg, who’s an ex-poker-pro with some very good online and live results. He’s obviously got a lot of poker experience, so his opinions are worth listening to. I’ve included some of my responses to him in-line with his email.
A reader, David Monath, sent me an email about my book Reading Poker Tells yesterday, pointing out some inconsistencies in the “Speed of calling” chapter, specifically what I say about immediate calls and what they mean. I wanted to address the inconsistencies here for the benefit of people who read the book.
This past weekend I played a $215 tourney at Chinook Winds, put on by Deepstacks Poker. Out of about 280 players, I got third for $5,700. I feel like I’m playing my best tournament game I’ve ever played; I can literally only point to one hand of the entire 22 hours of playing where I believed I’d made a mistake. That’s a big step up for me; in most of the few bigger buy-in tourneys I’ve played ($200-400 buy-ins), I’ve frequently felt like I butchered several hands, no matter how well I ended up doing. This time I felt like I played near flawlessly, had great focus, and picked my spots really, really well.
In my previous blog post I talked about what immediate calls (snap-calls) of significant turn bets in NLHE might mean. Some responses let me know that I hadn’t made it clear that I was just talking about significant turn bets, as opposed to flop bets, so I wanted to reiterate that. I think some of what I said can apply to flop bets, but flop bets and calls are usually not as meaningful, just because they’re usually smaller in size. In other words, a player could snap-call a regular pot-size flop bet with a wide range of hands, but he is unlikely to snap-call a significantly larger turn bet with a wide range of hands. As with all behavior, the more significant the situation is and the bigger the money at stake, the more meaningful it can be.
I wanted to add a couple factors that affect an immediate call.
The last post I wrote talked about immediate calls and what they might mean. (I called them “quick calls” but I should say “immediate calls” or “snap calls” because “quick” could be interpreted as someone moving their bet in with a quick motion.) I had talked in my book about quick calls for a short bit, but I’ve never felt happy with that section, because I felt there was much more to say on it. After writing that last blog post, it got me thinking long into the night and I came up with some (hopefully-logical) ideas.
This hand is from a $2-5 NL full ring game. Long story short: my opponent called a substantial turn bet very quickly, and I should have thought more about what his action meant. I should have come to the conclusion that his quick call meant that he was most likely drawing, which means I should have bluffed the river.
I played three sessions of live $1-2 NLHE in the past couple weeks, with the purpose of studying what poker tell information was the most important to look for. It’d been a while since I played $1-2 (mostly just been playing occasional $100+ tournaments lately), so I was curious what I’d see.
The length of time first looking at hole cards can be meaningful
I got heads-up in a NLHE tournament the other night and noticed that my opponent had a very common poker tell: when his hole cards were weak, he’d stare at them for a couple seconds on his initial look at them. This can be a useful tell at a full table, but I’ve found it’s especially common when in a short-handed or heads-up situation. Instead of posting this story here, I got permission from CardsChat.com to post it in their forums.
In September, I was in France for my honeymoon, so like any good new husband I wanted to get out and play some poker while I was there. After researching some Paris poker rooms, I ended up playing just a few hours at the Cercle Cadet poker club. This post will contain a few tips it might help you to know if you plan on playing there and my general impression of the card room and players.
Laliberte quickly pushing chips forward & leaning back in his chair when bluffing
This is the third post in a series about Guy Laliberte’s poker tells. This one will include a short analysis of Laliberte’s bet timing tells. It’s admittedly a small sample size, but what stands out is that when Laliberte chooses to bluff in a significant spot, it seems he is more likely to bet or raise quickly, within a few seconds. When he has a big hand, he is more likely to take a long time. I’ll also look at a physical movement he exhibited a few times when bluffing.
Laliberte after making a large raise with top full house.
In my last post I talked about some possible poker tells Guy Laliberte might have had during the One Drop. None of it was very conclusive, just because there were so few hands involving Guy, and only one where he made a significant bluff. In this post I wanted to look back at some old hands from a few years ago, to see if we could spot some of the same behavior. To summarize my last post, the things I felt were probably significant about Guy’s behavior (and they are common indicators) were:
Being much more still after bluffing or after betting when vulnerable
Putting chips out more confidently and quickly when bluffing or betting when vulnerable
Facial expression more confident/alert/neutral when bluffing or betting when vulnerable
Laliberte staring at Antonio Esfandiari after going all-in with a large bluff.
I spent the last couple days studying footage of Guy Laliberte playing poker. I started out studying the One Drop $1 million buy-in tournament final table footage, with the goal of picking up significant patterns Guy might have in significant hands. There were quite a few hands where Guy had strong hands and obviously wanted action. The problem was that there was really only one significant bluff Guy made; the crazy, huge all-in bluff he made against Antonio on the flop. So although I had some guesses as to Guy’s likely behavioral tells, there just wasn’t statistically enough information for me to make any good conclusions. Even just one more significant bluff from Guy would have made me feel better about my ideas.
So read this post, and the next two about Laliberte, just keeping in mind that you’re accompanying me on a learning expedition, not a trip where I claim to know right from wrong.