The ability to accurately analyze a player’s talk at the
table is a skill that you’ll learn over time. If you are
paying close attention, you are going to inevitably pick up on
some of the subtle nuances that can create the difference
between a good call and a bad call. Table talk is one of the
primary differentiators between online and live poker.
could type things in the chat box when you are playing online,
but this isn’t generally going to earn you a whole lot of
information. In fact, you might not get a reply at all, and when
you do, it will often times confuse you even more. In a real
life scene, however, you are going to be able to look at things
like tone, how someone talks, when they talk, and so on and so
forth. If there’s one skillful area of the game that should
never be ignored, it is table talk.
To me, there are two different types of table talk. The first
type of table talk comes from a player who is voluntarily
speaking with the table. This player is basically volunteering
information that they (usually) want you to have. The next type
of player will require some more work on your end, as they are
best referred to as the cooperative speaker. You can ask these
players and prod for information, and eventually they might help
Of course, there are always going to be those players
who say nothing at all. Sometimes you’ll have a player who
helps you more and more as they ramble, while in other
situations you will need to actually induce some conversation.
No matter what the case may be, table talk should help you in
every form imaginable.
Voluntary Table Talk
If a player is talking specifically about his strategy or
anything related to the game at hand, you should be paying
attention. For the most part these players are going to be
speaking out loud exactly what they are thinking in their head.
Though you might think it to be the case, there aren’t very
many players who will discuss strategy aloud while deep down
thinking something very different. Sometimes players will talk
in an attempt to justify their play in order to get some level
of acceptance from their peers. Other times players will talk
when they have made a bet and want either a call or a
fold. Needless to say, talking during a hand should be
interpreted differently than discussions after the fact, but
both will remain useful in their own way.
It would be impossible to try and dissect all of the
different things that a player might discuss after or before a
hand. What we can look into, however, is how to pick apart
common things that players will say while they are in a hand.
These are some of the most common phrases that you’ll hear
live poker players rehearse over and over again, and they
frequently mean the same thing from person to person.
“Be Careful.” This is what players like to say when
someone is about to bet into them. What this almost always means
is “I am not comfortable calling a bet, so I am going to pretend
like I am using reverse psychology to bait you into a bet while
the reality is that I really don’t want a bet at all. I am so
tricky!” The players who mutter this phrase are usually holding
weak to average strength showdown hands and simply want to win
the pot without a fight. If someone says this, don’t change your
plan of betting. If you were going to win the pot by checking it
down, you might as well try to win more by
placing a bet-assuming of course that you are likely to have
the winning hand.
“How Much Do You Have?” This is less static in meaning than
“be careful,” but it’s most commonly used when someone is
considering a bluff. You are less inclined to worry about stack
sizes when you have a big hand, but a weak hand doesn’t want to
bluff if the person they are betting into doesn’t have enough
chips to justify a fold. If you were thinking someone was
bluffing and they prefaced their bet with this question, you may
very well have been on the right path.
Creating a Conversation
Creating table talk is my personal favorite way to
hand strength when in difficult or tricky spots. You can learn a
lot from how someone reacts to your honest questions. There are
many different ways to approach a player when you want to find
out where they stand. Since you are usually in a position where
your hand strength is irrelevant to the outcome (in terms of the
other player knowing your hand), you are going to be able to use
this information to gauge reactions.
Let’s say that someone has placed a bet on a board with a
flush and straight possible, but you are only holding a set.
Assume that all you can now reasonably beat is a bluff, given
that top pair would be unlikely to bet. You are now
contemplating a call and are unsure of where you stand. One
thing that you can say is “Did you really hit that x?” with “x”
representing the more unlikely of the draws. If you can get the
player to react with a shrug or a smile or something similar,
you can feel more confident that this isn’t the hand that they
Most players who are actually holding said hand will
remain quiet once you have called them out. You can then use the
same line for the other draw and gauge the reaction again. The
more they give off a happy/relaxed look when you call out hands,
the less likely that they are to be holding them. Is this always
true? No, of course not, but your goal is to play the odds as
much as possible. This type of read is useful when you are
leaning to one side or the other but can’t really make up your
My next favorite way to pick up talkative tells is to tell my
opponent where I stand. Using the example above, although not best
for this particular move, you would say “I have a set, all I
lose to is a flush or a straight.” Once the player knows that
they are beat (if they are bluffing), they are generally going
to change up their body language. They might have been silent
before, but now they may start talking more or smiling or
nodding, etc. etc. These types of actions are indicative of a
player who is now trying to do all that they can to
If you used this line and didn’t get any change in posture
or stance whatsoever, you should be worried that you are in fact
beat. In the end, if a certain way of acting at the table seems
to be working, a player is not prone to changing. If they think
that their move is about to fail, they are more likely to try
out new things in the way of table talk or body language signs
that they weren’t exhibiting before.
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