Talking to players is the easiest way to create information
that you otherwise wouldn’t have been privy to. If you haven’t
previously used table talk to try and extract some tips from
your opponents, you might be surprised at how well it works.
While it’s going to be most beneficial against less experienced
players (of which there’s no shortage in live play), you’ll
also be able to pick up some tells from long time players as
well. When it comes down to it, the majority of players just
can’t help but to react in one way or another. You don’t
necessarily to have a full on verbal conversation with someone
in order to find what you are looking for.
There are a handful of different ways in which your speech
can give you information. If you are talking to a player and get
a spoken response or a body language response, you are going to have more to work
with than you did before. A simple shrug of the shoulder could
be the difference between a good call and a bad call. Of course,
reactions and their associated meanings are going to vary wildly
from player to player. You need to still be able to use context
clues when you are trying to piece the puzzle together. With all
of that being said, the aim of this article is to pinpoint how
you can talk to players and how you should analyze their
How to Talk
How you talk to a player will depend on what you want to
happen. If you are trying to bait someone into making a bet or a
call, you are undoubtedly going to use different language than
if you were trying to determine whether you should
call one of their bets. For the most part, I prefer to avoid
talking to opponents in the hand until I am in a risk free
A risk free position would be defined as a spot where
anything I say wouldn’t really be putting myself in jeopardy. In
fact, often times you’ll be in such a safe spot that you could
even show the other player your hand. These are the times when
talking is most beneficial because you have little to lose.
The best way to gain information from players through talking
is to say things that encourage and warrant a reply. “Did you
get the flush?” “Can you beat a straight?” These are the types
of lines that you can use with a reasonable expectation of a
reply. If someone asked you these questions, you would be at
least be tempted to answer them.
My personal favorite way to gain
information is to tell them right where you stand. If you tell a
player, “All I lose to is xyz,” they are going to know right then
and there whether they want a call or a fold. Now that you have
an idea of which types of phrases and lines are most effective,
the next step is to consider what the relative responses mean.
A fair amount of the time you’ll be left with no reply
whatsoever. Some players know what’s best for them and will
just keep quiet no matter how much you talk to them. While
adding some additional talk could provoke them to ultimately
reply, you shouldn’t hold out too much hope. These players are
going to be your worst enemy in these situations, because they leave
you all but helpless when it comes to gaining more information.
Body language reactions are the most common form of reply to
table talk. Whether or not someone verbally replies, they will
usually have some mannerism that could give you some insight
into their hand strength. For example, say that you asked a
player if they hit a draw. If the player shrugs their shoulders,
I would lean towards “no”. The reason for this is that players
tend to tense up in an attempt to stay calm and poised when
someone is calling out their hand.
Now, if you ask a player whether they can beat a specific hand and they react in the same
way, I would lean towards them having a made hand. The trouble
with these exact tells and reads is that they can and will vary
greatly depending on the type of player. For the most part,
however, a “shrug” type reply to a question like this would mean
that they were caught off guard with excitement and are trying
to induce a call.
As mentioned previously, my personal favorite way to pick up
some valuable information is to tell the players which are the
only hands I lose to. This is particularly valuable in a nuts
vs. second nuts (or something close) spot. If a player is making
a value bet and it turns out they are actually behind, they are
going to generally become a bit squirmish, on the inside if not
The same can be said for a player who was
completely bluffing. It’s easy to remain calm and focused when
you bluff and are hoping for a fold, but it becomes a lot more
difficult if you find out that your opponent is actually very,
very strong. Players want to think that their bluff has a
reasonable chance of standing for itself and forcing a fold. If
someone finds out that they are up against a monster, they are
of course going to be nervous.
Though it has been mentioned several times, you always need
to factor in the specific player at hand. Middle aged players in
their 30s-50s tend to be the easiest to read and fall in line
with many of the stereotypes. Young players also match the
typical reads, but they can be trickier. Older players are the
toughest because they will often times say nothing at all.
Beyond their physical appearance, however, you should also
consider an opponent’s skill level. A weaker player will give
off more standard tells and reads than a more advanced player.
The more advanced and skilled that a player is when it comes to
poker strategy itself, the less apt they are to give you
information when it comes to table talk.
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