I’ve been reviewing the 2011 WSOP Final Table footage of Staszko and Heinz, trying to pick up some patterns in Staszko’s body language. I haven’t been too successful. The main thing that got in the way of analyzing his body language patterns was that Staszko just didn’t bluff very much. In order to analyze someone’s tells you need to see how they act when they’re putting out a significant bluff and how they look when they’re putting out a significant value bet. Preferably you’d like to see a couple times of each, so you can correlate and compare the data a little better. And Staszko didn’t have much in the way of big bluffs. There were a couple medium bluffs, and there were a couple well-timed pushes when he got fairly low stacked. Unfortunately, in most of those cases, Heinz folded immediately, so I wasn’t able to see much in the way of post-bet tells (post-bet tells means the tells that occur after someone has bet). So while I didn’t get anything too good, I still think it’s worthwhile to share my opinions, because some of the stuff I’m talking about will apply to other people, even if they’re not that statistically significant for Staszko.
When I’m analyzing televised footage, and when I’m playing, I first like to try to study how people look when they have a big hand. You don’t always get a chance to do this “in the field”, but in a perfect world that’s what I like to see first. Seeing how a player looks with a big hand lets you establish how that player looks when they’re relaxed. When they’re not anxious about the situation. When they’re not afraid of giving something away. This lets you compare their behavior more easily when you see how they act when they’re bluffing. For Staszko, three of his biggest hands were:
These hands were great for an initial comparison, because he gets action to the river on both from Heinz, so you can study him as he makes a bet and after he makes a bet. These, by the way, are when many players are liable to give information away.
For comparison, some of his more significant (although not as significant as I’d like them to be) bluffs were:
There were a few more hands that were of interest, but these were the majority of the ones I found most significant. Again, this sample isn’t great because most of his bluffs were fairly small ball, and on the few spots where he pushed light Heinz folded immediately. Having expressed my disclaimer, here’s my thoughts.
I think Staszko’s most likely tells were:
1. He had a tendency to have loose facial expressions when he was holding a strong hand. The primary thing I noticed was that his mouth was much more likely to move around in various strange expressions when he was strong. Conversely, when he was bluffing or when he was calling or betting with a hand of uncertain strength, his face was more likely to remain stoic and firm. Although he did have a steady barrage of strange little facial expressions, they were much more common when he was strong, and they also were more likely to appear expressions that communicated weakness or uncertainty, like a furrowed brow, or tight lips.
2. He had a tendency to be looser in his hand movements when he was strong.
3. He tended to act quicker when he was bluffing than when he was value-betting.
Again, my hypotheses are drawn from a small sample size, so I’m not saying I’m very certain of this, but it fits in with many other players’ habits, so I think they’re in the realm of possibility.
I’ll go into the first tell in this post, and maybe leave the other two for future posts. Here’s a few screenshots from his hand when he had A9 and turned the full house. These are spots where I’ve tried to capture some of the looseness of his mouth. You might also say that these expressions have a somewhat “sad” or “uncertain” characteristic to them. He furrows his brow quite a few times (which he does occasionally in other spots, but not to the extent) and he makes a kind of perturbed tightening of his lips (again, something he would do sometimes in other spots, but not nearly as often). He also lets out his breath a couple times in a weird way that I never saw him do in a weak hand. He also swallows several times, which was unusual for him in most hands. I recommend watching this entire hand through a couple times so you can try to see what I mean. Here’s the link:
Same for the hand where he turns a straight with K9. Here’s a few screenshots from that:
Finally, for comparison, I suggest you watch the linked videos above where Staszko did not have hands. I’m not going to put out screenshots, as they would not really prove any point (because I could just take shots of him when he wasn’t moving his mouth or eyebrows), but I think if you study the shots above and then study the videos where Staszko is bluffing, you’ll see a difference in the amount of movement in his facial expressions.
Again, as I said, I don’t feel nearly as strongly that these are significant tells as I do about the stuff I noticed with Pius Heinz. Heinz was a lot easy to draw some good conclusions about because we had a lot of samples of his bluff behavior as well as his good hand behavior (read that blog post here).
For the most part, though, I found Staszko very hard to read, and there was only one specific thing he did that I picked up on during actually watching it in real-time (which I’ll talk about in another post). I think he was a smart guy, who knew the value of keeping his behavior range very well-balanced. Even though he was pretty physically quirky in a lot of spots, he was, for the most part, consistently quirky, which made it hard to separate any meaningful physical tells from his background noise.