A guy sent me an email with this question:
Just reviewing all my tells info again. Just curious if you had a quick opinion on this: if you have someone who engages in repetitive behavior, and then it stops, what does this mean? What are some examples of this you might see?
I’d say in general, if you see someone who has repetitive behavior (leg shaking, chip shuffling, etc.) and it stops suddenly, this means that person is anxious. This is because most people’s response to stress is to “freeze up” (like the well-known deer in headlight response), and get more still.
How I usually see this tell exhibited is in post-bet situations (meaning after someone has bet). If their leg had been shaking up to that point, for example, their leg might go still after putting out their bet. All things being equal, I’d be more likely to think this is a tell.
Another example would be someone shuffling their chips constantly, and then they bet, and their chip shuffling stops (or even just slows down). This would increase the chances they are bluffing, to me. Sometimes I try to induce this tell by counting out chips. Sometimes the person’s stillness won’t be evident until I “threaten” them with a call. For example, if they’re constantly shuffling their chips, and I start to subtly stack some chips up as if considering a call, they might stop shuffling their chips or slow down shuffling their chips considerably.
Keep in mind, of course, that you should try to correlate this information as much as possible. Watch these people when they’re in hands with other people and notice these things before you try to use the information yourself. Some people have very obvious patterns in this way; some people won’t. And some people (better players) will know this kind of information, and will try to “look weak” by freezing up when they want a call.
I usually try to combine these kinds of tells with eye-contact tells. Many players have a tendency to engage in more eye contact (look at you more), when they have strong hands after they bet. (Some people have opposite tells in this regard; my recent blog post about Pius Heinz’ tells showed Heinz to have the opposite tendency, so you should try to see which tendency a player exhibits.) So, for example, if I knew a player was the type to engage in more eye contact after betting with a strong hand, and this player bet into me while looking at me, and he showed no stillness in his body movements when I consider a call, the combination of these two tells increases the likelihood that he’s not bluffing. Similarly, if this same player had bet, and he looked at me less, and his repetitive movements and body movements had slowed down or stopped, this would increase the likelihood that he was bluffing.
But, to answer your question in a general way, if a player’s movements have slowed down or stopped, it is more likely to mean anxiety/nervousness.