Continuing on the same theme as last week’s blog post, I’ve got a video of another actor who unwittingly telegraphs his hand strength. The actor is Jeremy Sisto (from Six Feet Under and some other shows) and he shows some standard signs for great strength that you’ll see displayed a lot when playing with weak competition.
You may be wondering – why am I focusing on amateur poker players like these actors? Why aren’t I focusing on the real poker players? It’s because there is not much in the way of physical tells to be learned by watching the best players, unless it’s the importance of hiding tells and not giving anything away. (It’s also debatable whether there’s anything strategy-wise to be learned from watching those shows, just because most games so little resemble the ones seen on tv.) Amateur poker players offer much more insight into the most common tells you’ll see at a poker table. Most of us will be playing for most of our lives against players who are more like Matt Damon than they are like Phil Ivey. There is much more to be gained from figuring out the tells (and playing styles) of amateurs than there is to (most probably) wasting your time trying to figure out the tendencies of people at the top of their game.
In this video Jeremy Sisto picks up pocket Aces and Jennifer Harman has pocket Queens. At the 8:07 point, you can see Sisto react to his cards. He looks at the Aces and immediately has a put-upon expression. His shoulders sink down, he looks downward, his brow furrows, his mouth moves in a way that looks frustrated.
Another thing to note: I think that on these shows they instruct the players to hold their cards up for at least a couple seconds so that the table-camera can get a good shot of them. I think that if it weren’t for this rule you’d see Sisto put his Aces down very quickly. Looking at good hole cards very quickly is pretty standard for how an average player reacts to a big hand.
Sisto puts in what is basically a minimum raise. The fact that he makes a raise after all of his apparent indications of distress should be noteworthy.
Next, notice the way he gives Jennifer Harman the eye after betting. Looking at an opponent post-bet is one of the big give-aways for weak players with a big hand. The more an opponent looks toward you or at you after he bets, the more likely it is that they have a strong hand. This is one of the most general and most practical things to look for when studying your opponents. You need to study them when they’re bluffing and you need to study them when they’re value betting. Players who are betting weak are more likely to resist looking at you and resist interacting with you at all.
This general rule obviously applies much less to a pre-flop situation like this when hand strength is very undefined. It’s the kind of tell that’s really only going to do you much good post-flop, when hand strength becomes more defined. If he was acting this way on the river it would mean a lot more.
Knowing he’s a total amateur (as Harman would be able to tell in a few seconds) makes Harman’s job much harder, because he could quite easily think his hand was strong with a much weaker hand than Queens. Plus the fact that their stacks are not deep makes it a push-or-fold situation for Harman. Can’t blame her for shipping it in, although a strong case could be made for just calling and seeing how Sisto reacts to the flop.