This is an email I got from a reader and thought it was a good example of the kinds of verbal clues of attention/non-focus you can pick up in multi-way pots. Here’s the email, with my response to him following:
Here is a funny situation that happened a week ago in a local club where I play once a week. It’s a small stake cash game with a mix of experienced and newbie players and all between.
We are four or five to the flop, the pot is rather small. Flop is something like J-8-4 rainbow. First player to act says “I call”, and immediately corrects himself, “No, I mean ‘I check’”.
It creates some amusement around the table. I was next to act and I said “I call too”, trying to be funny. Anyway, I checked and if I remember right there was a bet from the original raiser. Everyone folded and the original raiser won the pot.
I do believe there could be some useful tells in this short story. First, the inexperienced player who by mistake said, “I call” when he did not have that option; he was probably thinking something along these lines: “If somebody makes a bet I will probably call”. When the dealer pointed to him, he “woke up” and said the first thing in his mind, which was “I call.” That puts him on a range of 8X or a pair under Jack.
I myself was relaxed to such degree that I was probably going to fold my hand for any bet on the flop. Or I have a monster like a flopped set and was very relaxed. With my behavior, I didn’t have Jx, an overpair or two pair since then I would need a moment to think about my action.
The preflop raiser in this situation should have looked around the table to see who was not laughing. Those who aren’t laughing are maybe thinking how to proceed in the pot and are a potential danger. Not exactly sure if I would have been so calm myself in that situation.
Last thought, I think the first-to-act player might very well have had a decent hand but since he outed himself and there was a lot off attention on him, he felt insecure and folded. He dropped his original plan to call one bet on the flop. He did not want to check-call turn and check-call river and look like a fool if he did not won the pot. Comments?
Yeah, I think you’re analysis is spot on, actually. Guy who says “I call” is hardly ever going to have a strong hand and outs himself as defensive with a hand he’ll often be calling with.
Also, perfect point about looking around to see who’s not laughing. Laughing/smiling/general looseness from waiting-to-act players will be clue to them not being mentally focused.
Good stuff. These are the kinds of reasons multi-way pots can have so many clues; people’s guards are down and you’re more likely to get these small clues of weakness/non-focus and it sets you up for good bluffing spots if you notice them. If I was the pre-flop raiser and had nothing, I would have been encouraged by everyone’s behaviors to fire again, knowing it had become a lot less likely someone has a strong hand.