Stop Looking for F'ing Tells
by jnells | Published Apr 30, 2012
I played the $250 at Seabrook Poker Room yesterday and I was very happy with how I played and I gave myself chance after chance to win big pot and it just never came to fruition. I had a below average table draw but later on in the tournament the table got much better and I thought I could ride that into a big stack which could propel me to the final table but lost a 60k pot when I got counterfeited and shortly after that the table broke and I went to a entirely unfamiliar table with only 30K and got it in on a 10 10 7 board with KK and ran into 77. Oh well.
One thing that invariably happens when people who don't play poker ask me questions is I run into something to the extent of " Wow you've won a couple tournaments this year you must have tells on everyone up in NH?" or "What do you look for on someones face to figure out what they have?". As it pertains to low stakes live tournaments and SnGs tells are by in large irrelevant, now if I see something than I am not going to ignore it but it is of minimal importance in my overall game plan. I always think that it is funny when someone open raises in a pot and one of their opponents take 30 seconds to a minute to "stare them down" trying to "look into their soul".
Now I bet some people are sitting their thinking "shut up", it can't hurt to be looking at people when they are raising just in case you do start to pick up a tell but I would disagree. While many players are staring down the open raiser or the person who the action is on post flop I am usually looking people who are going to act after me especially those who are in the blinds. Telegraphs are way more prevalent and reliable in low stakes tournaments and even more so in SnGs. A telegraph is when someone who is going to act after you gives away the action that they are going to take well before it is even close to their turn to act. You would be shocked at the amount of people who while in the big blind will look openly disgusted when they are dealt a crappy hand in the blinds, also sometimes people will start to line up the chips to make a call or raise when looking at a good hand in the blinds. This information is exponentially more important than some obscure facial tick that you think you saw when someone raised because it is exponentially more reliable. Think about it how many more hands can you open raise, or open shove (if your stack is low enough) if you have quality intelligence saying that the big blind is going to fold, honestly it is hilarious in SnGs when effective stack sizes are 5 big blinds and people in the big blind roll their eyes after looking at their cards and this kind of stuff happen way more often than you would expect.
One of the funniest things about telegraphs is how easy it is for people to correct this huge leak in their game. All you have to do is not look at your cards until it is actually your turn to act. The percentage of people who look at their cards as soon as they can is very telling to the level of poker skill they posses, because anyone with half a poker sense can easily see that there is absolutely no advantage to be gained in any respect by knowing your hand before it is your turn to act and as I outlined earlier it can actually hurt your equity substantially. I almost never look at my cards until I have to take an action and the few times I do I usually think how dumb I just was.