Can you tell which two of these pictures belong together and which one belongs on its own? All three of these pictures are taken from three different hands in a “pro meets celebrity” poker tournament Jeremy Sisto played. All three of them were taken after Jeremy made a bet. Two of them were with hands where he was relatively sure he had the best hand. One is from a hand where his hand was vulnerable. Can you tell which photos match up with which situations?
The first two, in my opinion, are very similar. They show Sisto betting a strong hand in situations when he has every reason to think his hand is good. The first picture is when he had pocket A’s against Jennifer Harman’s Q’s (another blog post on that subject here). This picture was taken right after he raised her bet pre-flop. The second picture is taken when he again had pocket Aces, this time against Phil Laak. The picture was taken right after he made a value bet on the river.
The third picture was taken in a pot with Laak, right after Sisto bet on the flop with overcards. While it wasn’t technically a bluff, because Sisto could have easily been ahead, it definitely was a spot where Sisto would have been very happy to see his opponent fold. And actually, because Sisto is an amateur, it very likely was a bluff in his mind, and so I don’t mind calling it a bluff.
What are the differences between the photos? For starters, in the first two, I think you can see several signs of “anguish” that aren’t there in the third one. I think his eyebrows look more stressed in the first two photos. Even though all three are furrowed (because Sisto is just a furrowed-brow type of guy), the first two exhibit more tension. In the first picture he looks more angry; in the second he looks more worried. Cover up the bottom half of his face in all three photos and you will see this clearly. Superficial signs of stress, ones that are made obviously visible, often means that someone wants you to think he or she is having a difficult time. Players who want you to fold will not often exhibit such displays.
Also, I think his mouth looks more pout-y in the first two pictures. More stressed. This isn’t nearly as important as the eyes, though.
What does the third photo show? It shows a lack of affect. Compared to the first two, it shows Sisto trying to look neutral and unreadable. The most notable thing is the lack of emotion, compared to the emotion that is present in the first two pictures. Bluffers don’t want to give anything away, and if Sisto was able to look in the first two situations as he looks in the third situation he would be doing pretty well. But when you correlate his differences of expression with the situation, you see significant patterns.
And it’s this correlation that’s the important part. If I had only watched Sisto play a single hand of cards, I wouldn’t have felt like I knew anything about his tells. But after watching quite a few of his hands, I have a better handle on his mannerisms.
One last interesting thing. One big indicator of strength is when a player is more willing to look at you after he bets. You’ll notice that in the first two photos Sisto is looking towards his opponent more than in the third photo. The third photo shows him staring at the board cards, which is a common place for bluffers to look. Now this tell is more of a behavioral trend, meaning that it’s not going to be all or nothing; you’ll have to watch the tendency of a player and see how in some situations he’ll make more eye contact with you than in other spots.
But even though these are only snapshots they indicate the general trend. If you watch the video you’ll see that Sisto, in the third hand, when he’s wanting Laak to fold, he will still look at his opponent occasionally, but it is significantly less than in the first two hands.
One last snapshot: this is Sisto just a few seconds after the third photo, in the hand where he wanted Laak to fold on the flop. You can really see the difference here, as Sisto tries his best to appear neutral and nonchalant. I almost used this photo as the third photo but I thought it would be too obvious, so I chose a still where he looked somewhat similar to the first two photos.
Sisto’s tells are very extreme and typical for a very beginner-level player. You won’t see too many players make it this obvious, although occasionally you will. But I think watching Sisto’s behavior and understanding it well will make it easier to spot more subtle behavior from more experienced players.