In guts-style poker games, if you’ve ever played them in home games, the whole game is basically who’s in or out based on their current hand. No draws, no extra cards, nothing. You’re either in or you’re out and if you win you take down the pot. If you end up loser you have to match the pot. It can be a pretty anxiety-inducing game if you are truly playing match-the-whole-pot rules. In this post I’ll give you a tell that will let you crush most guts-type games (and it’s useful for all poker games).
The tell is this: a player’s inclination is to look away quickly from cards that have helped them, and to stare at cards that haven’t helped them. This tell can be especially pronounced with hole cards. You simply use some peripheral vision as everyone is dealt their cards, and get a sense for who’s looking quickly away from their cards and who’s looking at their cards for a few seconds.
Players with strong hands will have their hands in position and ready to play very quickly. Players who look at their cards for more than a few moments are almost never faking – they are genuinely trying to figure out if their hand is somehow worth a play. It can also just be the lack of the reaction of looking away when they have a good hand. So if you are able to see everyone (or almost everyone, depending on how comfortable with risk you are) staring at their cards for a few seconds then you should be prepared to stay in with anything: a mediocre hand that might win against one player or nothing at all as a pure bluff. The more people you can discount as having a hand the lower your risk is.
It is a similar concept in five-card-draw, but only if the players are picking up their cards all at the same time. You can spot this tell by watching the players to act behind you as they first check their cards. You can use your peripheral vision and seemingly be staring at the center of the table while you are actually getting a sense for who is putting down their cards immediately and who’s looking at them for a second or two.
While this tell applies to hold’em, too, it’s less useful, just because it’s much easier to get a sense of your hand strength in hold’em. But the general law applies, so that if a player stares at their hole cards for a while when they first look at them, their cards are more likely to be weak.