How to Induce Calls
The ability to induce calls from opponents is something that's absolutely unique to live poker. While you could try to talk in a chat box while playing online, this isn't likely to generate consistently profitable results. Live poker is popular largely, maybe even primarily, because of its inherent social qualities. You are going to be interacting with other players on an ongoing basis. This means you can see their tendencies, force them into moves they wouldn't otherwise make, and so on and so forth. While there will be many situations in which anything you say or do will prove to be irrelevant, there are also going to be times where you can persuade people to make calls that they usually wouldn't make
For the most part, there are three different types of people when it comes to table talk. There are players who are good at it, players who are bad at it, and players who don't talk at all, or at least not in big hands where it could play a role. You should be able to pick up on who is good and who is bad, but this skill relies entirely on your own awareness of table talk. If there's one thing that people don't tend to talk about (no pun intended) in live poker, but that's actually very important, it would be the non-play skills that make a difference. Talking someone into a call could be the difference between a winning or a losing session, so you should be doing whatever you can to create the most profitable outcome in any given situation.
Talking at the table is hardly the only way to induce a call. In fact, your body language could be one of your most deadly yet silent weapons. If you are able to act in a certain way that makes someone decide to call, you are obviously doing something right. The key to using body language to induce the action that you like is making sure that you know your audience. Some people just aren't going to pay attention to you no matter what you do. Others will read into every little action. Still others will think that stereotypical signs in poker are what they should be keeping their eyes on. Since each tactic is going to have varying usability depending upon the situation and opponent, you should consider each of these "artificial tells" to be part of a more complete and diverse arsenal.
For all intents and purposes, you are going to be wanting a big call either when you are all in or after betting on the river. For this reason, you are going to more safely be able to identify when you can start to give off some signs. One of the most popular and reliable tells is to look around and away from the table after betting. Instead of a stare at the board, a strong player will often times gaze into the distance. If you think your opponent is likely to be aware of this tell, you can use it to your advantage by staring at the board when you bet.
Personally, I feel like a strong, steady stare at the board (with occasional glances at the player) is one of the best ways to get a call. You can appear subtly nervous if you try hard enough. Practice staring intently at the board and feign apprehensiveness towards breathing or moving at all. Extreme stillness seems to be one of the physical tells that gets people to call, and with good reason, because it frequently will indicate weakness.
My second favorite physical tell to make it appear as if I am bluffing is to fumble my chips when shuffling. If you don't normally shuffle your chips from time to time, this isn't going to be as effective. If you are a chronic shuffler like many live poker players are, however, you can drop and act nervously. There's a lot of skill that can go into acting nervously whilst pretending to hide that nervousness. You basically want to act like a nervous person who is trying to feign confidence. You can do this by fumbling chips, swallowing while pretending to hide the swallow, etc. People think they have picked apart your fear when in reality it's only a gimmick.
Talking is much more of an art in poker than it is a science. If you aren't good at it now it's likely going to take a lot of time and effort to work on your approach. Talking to an opponent assumes both that they will read into what you say and that they will also do what you want them to do. If someone is listening to you but interprets something in the wrong way, you are punishing yourself. This is why it can be best to simply stay quiet as you can easily be hurting yourself much more than you are helping.
If you do decide to talk, it's best to do so once it seems like the person is conceding and about to muck. At this point you don't have a whole lot to lose. Saying things like "come on, we know you are folding" can either expedite the folding process or get them to change their mind. Is it going to be common for you to totally transform a fold into a call? No, of course not, it all comes back to having nothing to lose.
If you truly don't know whether someone is leaning towards a call or a fold, it's generally best to keep quiet. Once you have some information from them, you can then work around their current position. It should be pretty obvious if someone is bemoaning how they think they have to call vs. how they are sure they are beat.
If someone is really on the edge of a call and you haven't said anything up until this point, speaking up now just doesn't make any sense. If anything, you might throw them off and change their mind altogether. In the end, talking in an attempt to induce a call is usually going to be a better play once you are already sure that they were going to fold. In most other situations, there's a good chance that you are going to be doing more harm than good.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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