Betting patterns are one of the most important factors when reading people at the poker table. Many professionals have even stated that reads can only get you so far, but what really helps putting someone on a hand is how much a player bets, how they bet, and the situation they bet in. There are also other factors in their posture and speed but those are the main categories. Check out our main Poker Tells page for even more poker tells!
Focusing on how they bet, this can really help you determine if they really have a hand. There is a saying in poker, and although it isn’t always true, it generally tends to be the case; especially with weak players. “Strong means weak and weak means strong.” I’m not sure of the exact diagnosis, but it is a natural feeling that when someone is bluffing, they feel the need to look strong. I have found myself making this exact same mistake in my earlier days as well. On that note, if you notice a player forcefully betting his chips, he is probably bluffing. As Caro says, “the tiny bit of little emphasis that you should look for is what tells you that the hand is weak and the player thinks he needs to exaggerate its importance.” Most of the time, if the player had a big hand, he wouldn’t feel the need to push you off of yours. It would actually be the opposite, because he would want action from you and does not want to look threatening.
How Much to Me
Now again, as stated above, when players are strong they want to look weak. One of the ways many amateurs try to do this is feigning ignorance. If you ever hear someone say “how much is it to me?” you can probably assume they have a big hand. Most of the time they know how much it is to them but just want to look as if they weren’t playing attention and aren’t as threatening.
Caro states in one of his law of tells that “If a player looks and then checks instantly, it’s unlikely that he improved his hand.” His reasoning behind this is if your opponent improved his hand, it would take more than a second to determine what to do. But it is usually very easy to notice that your hand is the same, and has not improved. He talks about this concept in drawing type games, but it can also be applied to hands in hold’em where you might be unsure if you will miss a bet by checking. If for example you’re on the river with a hand you’re not sure if you should bet, looking at a situation like this could help. This is one of the reasons you see pros like Chris Ferguson whose style is so methodical and thinks over every decision 10-15 seconds before he acts. Chris has stated that he usually knows what he is going to do instantly, but does not want to give off anything about his hand so takes his time to act.
When a player at the table takes an unusual amount of time to act, this is generally an indication that he has a big hand. This isn’t always the case, of course, but if you make a bet and someone stares you down for a minute, and is thinking and thinking, then comes in for a raise; get out. If they were bluffing, they would most likely not take this long, especially when raising, for fear of being called. By taking this extra time, he is acting to try and lure you in.
A misdirected bet is basically when someone goes out of their way to bet at a weak hand, or player, and avoid a hand they might be worried about. This mainly applies to games like 7 card stud, where you can see some of your opponent’s cards. For example, if you are in the pot with 2 people and someone psychically reaches across the table to bet at the “garbage” board as opposed to what could be a strong board, they are almost always bluffing. Whenever someone goes out of their way like this it is almost always a bluff.
If a player looks at his hand then bets instantly, it is highly unlikely that he is bluffing. For example, if you were playing 7 card stud and someone bets almost simultaneously as he looks at his last card, he either already had his hand made or hit it on the river. He is trying to lure your call by making it look like he is betting too fast. The same could be said for hold’em as well. Usually, when people act faster than usually they are fairly strong.
This is a tell that I have rarely myself seen and in my opinion is only done by really bad players. This is pretty much the mother of all “weak means strong” tells. If someone is acting pained by a bet, or perhaps shrugs their shoulders and says something like “oh well,” then raises, they almost always have a big hand. Of course there could be times when people do this on tilt or out of frustration, but without any prior knowledge of a player it is safe to assume they will have a monster.
As said above, a forceful or exaggerated bet usually means weakness. So what do you think a soft, innocent looking bet means? It almost always indicated that the player has a strong hand. They do not feel the need to scare you away, and is quite the contrary. They want action so they put their bet in soft and gently, hoping you pick this up that they’re scared. But if you’re paying attention, you should realize that this is almost never a bluff.
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