Indicators of Strength in Live Poker

Live poker is a unique game because there are many ways that
you can win hands without even having the best cards. While this
could easily be said about online poker as well, it would not be
fair to say that online will afford you the opportunity to gain
insights that you are privy to in a live environment. If someone
bets out on the river on the internet, you are left with hand
histories and the hand in question. They could be saying “fold,
fold, fold” out loud and you would never know it. It’s easy to
let your emotions run wild when you are playing behind a
computer screen, and the face to face confrontations that you
encounter in brick and mortar poker will give you plenty of
opportunities to make use of your instincts.

Indicators of strength come in many different shapes and
sizes. Some players will wear their emotions on their sleeve, albeit inadvertently, while others
will do their best to throw you off. Being able to see through
the façade is what will enable you to make reads with remarkable
accuracy. If you are taking your opponents actions at face value
in live poker, you are going to be destroying your win rate in
the end. You need to not only determine how someone is acting,
but how their actions fit into the hand in question. Is this
easy to do? Well, no, not necessarily, but there are certainly
many tips and tricks that can be used to aid in your decision
making processes.

Bet Sizing

Bet sizing is greatly understated when it comes to creating
sound reads on opponents. A lot of live players think that
physical tells are the most reliable way to pick up on reads,
but this isn’t always the case. There are a lot of dead
giveaways that occur within normal gameplay that you might not
have considered before. If someone is taking a strong line that
appears believable, there’s good reason why you are afraid.
Live players aren’t usually able to make their bluffs as
deceptive as they would like.

If a player is bluffing, they are likely to be betting very
large, often times so large that it almost seems as if they want
a fold. Now, if a player wants a call, they are still going to be betting a fair
amount, but they also aren’t going to bet so much as to scare
others away. An easy way to analyze
bet sizing is to think about what you would do in the same
situation. If you had a big hand, how would you have played it
in an effort to extract maximum value. If you had nothing, how
would you have tried to force your opponent into a fold. You
might be pleasantly surprised to find out just how often this
will work in assessing where the other player stands. If bet
sizing seems fishy, it may very well be. If a player seems like
they are gunning for a call, they probably are. Believe it or
not, often times it’s just as simple as that.

Subtle Physical Tells

Subtle physical tells are usable, but they shouldn’t be
heavily relied upon. The problem with these small tells is that
they can easily mean different things in different players. For
example, a player who is breathing very hard might be bluffing
or they might have a big hand. An example of a tell that’s more
reliable would be someone who is trying to stop their breathing
altogether. Players will do this in an attempt to conceal as
many giveaways as possible. If a player is breathing normally,
there’s an increased likelihood that they actually have a big

Another example of a subtle tell would be when a player rests
his head in his hand or his hand over his cards. These are ways
that players try to calm themselves down, whether they are
thinking about it or not. A player who is bluffing is going to
be running through an array of emotions, so the natural reaction
is to try and act calm and collected. If a player seems like
they are trying unnaturally hard to remain calm, don’t be
surprised if their heart is actually beating out of their chest.

Obvious Physical Tells

Obvious physical tells are usually reverse tells. Players who
are working hard to act like they don’t care much about the pot
at hand are frequently doing so because they want it to appear
as if they are disinterested. To some players, disinterest would
indicate weakness, but this is seldom the case. Why would a
player casually toss their chips in the middle if they really
were weak? Not only is this obvious, but it also invites calls

There are a number of different ways that players try to act
as if they aren’t worried about a hand when they really want to
get paid off. Aside from acting casual and exceptionally
relaxed, another indicator of strength is when a player does
things sloppily or without much thought. You’ll notice from
time to time that players will bet their chips in such a way
that they “splash the pot” so to speak.

What is meant by this is that they will place their bet and knock their stacks of chips
over in the process, forcing the dealer to count out the bet. In
the mind of this type of player, they think that their
sloppiness will goad you into a call. They may very well be
right about this, so you need to look out for it. A truly weak
player would want to appear strong, so these types of moves
should be considered signs of strength.

Verbal Signals

Players who are strong will sometimes start to talk when it
appears as if their opponent is about to fold. This is
especially true when the player had previously been quiet. They
figure that they aren’t likely to win anything if they stay
quiet, so they decide that they should try some talking as a
last ditch effort. Think about it, if a player was weak and
their opponent was about to fold and they hadn’t spoken
previously, why would they start talking now once they are on
the brink of success? They wouldn’t.

Players who tell you their hand should be watched carefully.
To be more specific, players should be feared when they share
their hand and represent something that’s not in line with
their play. The reason that some people do this is because they
want to ensure you that they don’t have much in an attempt to
give you a reason to make the call. If something seems too good
to be true, it probably is, and this saying holds true in poker
as well.