For some players, an important place to get tells is during the flop continuation bet and turn continuation bet after they have raised pre-flop. There are little tendencies that can give you an indication that the pre-flop raiser either is comfortable betting or uncomfortable betting, and even if these tells are far from being 100% reliable, they still can be significant and influence your play. I sometimes use these type of tells to turn a borderline situation into a call, or a raise, or a fold, depending on what I see.
The opponent I’m writing about here I’ve only played a couple sessions of $15-30 limit with. He’s a tad too loose-aggressive in my opinion, but decent. Because he was getting involved in a lot of pots, I focused on figuring out his style. (I usually take that approach just because it makes sense to figure out the guy who’s playing a lot of hands, because you’ll probably end up playing him a good amount.) I won’t pretend that I always get good reads on players in a limit game; there are many decent players who I can’t get any good information from. When this is the case, I think about something else and don’t worry about that player’s tells.
This player, though, I was able to quickly see had a certain tendency that was very reliable. When he was betting with a weak hand, he had a tendency to look downward when he bet, and to keep a very neutral expression on his face. This is a common general tendency; it can just sometimes take a little while to see how it plays out in a specific player. Players will commonly avert their eyes downward when bluffing or semi-bluffing; it’s just a natural tendency for liars to avert their eyes. Whereas players who are value-betting are more likely to keep their eyes straight ahead or look at you more.
When this guy was betting a decent or good hand on the flop or turn, he usually wore a perturbed expression during and after , with his face kind of screwed up in an agitated expression. His lips would be slightly puckered and his eyebrows pulled inward, in the stereotypical expression of someone a bit angry. This is also pretty common; this is just a tendency to be more obviously “combative” when holding a decent hand, whereas when they are weak, they’d prefer to appear neutral and not to attract anybody’s attention or ire.
I was kind of excited, because this guy’s tell was very reliable, like in the 90% range. This is unusual in a limit game; there’s usually so many factors at play, and many players are so spazzy, that you’re doing pretty well if you spot a tell that’s in the 75% reliability range. I was looking for excuses to get into the pot with him so I could put it to use.
A few hands later I’m in the small blind with
A loose, passive player limps UTG and the villain I’ve been talking about raises from middle position. I call with my threes and the UTG player calls, making it 3-handed to the flop. The flop is:
[Ts] [7d] [4h]
I check, the UTG player checks, and the villain bets out. When he bets out, I observe that same tell of looking downward toward his chips for a moment when he bets. Without this tell, and in a three-handed pot, this would be an automatic fold. But based on this tell, I call. I probably should have raised, but I thought that the UTG player, being passive and loose, is calling if he has a Ten, which is well in his range, and if he doesn’t have a Ten he’s just going to fold anyway. I didn’t want to raise and have the UTG player call and then just have to shut down completely on the turn. But really, raising would have been a better play just in case the UTG raiser has 99, 88 or a lower pair.
But, anyway, I just call, and the UTG player folds. The turn makes it:
[Ts] [7d] [4h] [9d]
I bet out, thinking I’m ahead of most of villain’s range. The villain calls. This doesn’t mean much to me, because he’s smart enough to interpret a “donk bet” (what they call a bet into the pre-flop raiser, because typically the normal play is to check to the aggressor in the hand; it’s a weird play that is hard to interpret, and most good players tend to interpret such a bet as weakness or a semi-bluff drawing hand.) as weakness and call with any two overcards, especially the overcards like AJ or QK or QJ that make a draw.
The river comes a low diamond:
[Ts] [7d] [4h] [9d] [5d]
I check at this point, because he’s not folding a better hand, and he may bluff with worse if I check. He does indeed bet, and I’m forced to call, because the running flush is the only hand I can put him on here, and it’s also very possible he bets just high cards as a bluff here, because my turn donk-bet and river check are big indications of weakness. He shows
and I muck.
So I lost the hand, but this should give you a really good example of how tells in limit can change your strategy. That’s assuming you can find good ones in the first place. It’s very seldom I alter my fundamental strategy in limit based on tells (in no-limit I will make large deviations). I have to find a tell that is quite significant, which isn’t always easy, and I have to be able to spot that tell during the hand, which can also be difficult (especially if you’re in multi-way pots, and especially if you’re not at your full powers of concentration). Really, though, the main reason you won’t be using many tells is that it’s limit and you play so few hands to begin with. In the case of this particular villain, I played several more hours with him and never got into another heads-up confrontation with him again, even though I really would have liked to.