I was excited to find a new tell the other day. It’s one I’m surprised I’ve never noticed before, and I wonder if it might be fairly frequent. I’d imagine it might be common amongst the players who think they’re being very tricky.
There’s this guy who’s been playing the $15-30 game lately who’s a total unpredictable maniac. He will basically play any two when the feeling strikes him, and if he has any sort of piece of a flop, he will go all the way. He loves to checkraise on the turn with draws, and mediocre hands that most people would just call with, and of course his strong hands. He will regularly three-barrel bet with absolutely nothing. He loves to brag about how people can’t put him on a hand. He has multiple thousand dollar swings regularly. He’s very dangerous in the short term because he will put you to some hard decisions.
He also tries to be very psychologically tricky. He likes to do stuff like pretend to put out a raise but not really do it, or act like he’s going to call and then not do it. Recently he acted like he was putting a raise in by saying “little bit”, which is what one of the regular players says when he wants to raise and which everyone knows as short hand for raise in this game, but then he saw that the other players were calling and just put in a call. (This humorously prompted one of the players to call the floor, who explained that “little bit” is not official terminology for a raise and therefore isn’t binding.)
So this player has all kinds of quirkiness to him, and I’ve gone back and forth about what the most important piece of information is to focus on with him. He’s full of little tics and strange actions, and while I’ve found some things that have a decent statistical significance, it wasn’t until the other day when I noticed something very telling (no pun intended). It’s this: because this player will often abort a bluff bet on the turn or river when he sees he is about to be called, it is possible to get information from how quickly his arm moves his bet into place.
For example, if he’s bluffing the river, he will usually take a couple seconds and make this wide semi-circle with his arm before placing his chips into the pot, almost like he’s throwing a slow side-arm pitch. He’s looking for signs of a call, because he’s smart enough to realize that some players will make their intended calls very obvious, and in some cases will frequently beat him into the pot (see my post about limit players who make their calls obvious). So if and when he sees such a sign of an obvious call, which will happen fairly frequently, he will abort his bluff and give up. However, if he sees no sign of an impending call, he will continue with his bet.
Conversely, if he’s betting a decent hand, he will just put the bet out very straightforwardly and more quickly. No side-arm action; just a straight pushing in of the chips.
After watching him for a while, I was quite certain this was a great tell on him. I had to leave soon after, so I haven’t yet had a chance to put it to use yet, but I’m looking forward to playing him again.
The interesting thing about this tell, though, is what to do with it. If you’re not experienced at dealing with this, your first instinct might be to think, “I’m going to act like I’m folding to encourage him to bluff,” or “I’m going to act like I’m calling when I have a weak hand so I can get a free showdown.” That’s the reason you see a lot of people holding their chips defensively, trying to dissuade an aggressive player from calling (which is just horrible, as I’ve talked about in a previous post).
The best way to use this tell is to do nothing at all, and just absorb the information as best you can. If you give him any inkling to believe that his maneuver isn’t working against you, he will cease using it. So it’s best to just look stoic and not give him any sign that you’re calling or folding in the hopes that he’ll continue doing this as long as possible, and that it will continue to be of use to you. Eventually he will probably wise up, but hopefully not for a while.
(By the way, if you play in this game, don’t let this player know about this, please.)