By observing and analyzing playing patterns at your poker table, you can discover how to exploit weaknesses over a time period. It is advantageous to vigilantly observe the tiniest details of how all pots are played out even if you are not involved in the hand itself.
The points discussed are not based on body language and can be applied to live and online games (check out 바둑이 for a guide to online poker rooms).
Certain types of players tend to bet immediately if they are bluffing or might let their time run down with strong hands. Take some mental notes on connections between time used, hand strength, and bluff frequency.
Bet sizing tells
The size of a bet can divulge clues about a player’s hand range. To avoid being exploited yourself on tougher tables, you will need to gauge your pre-flop raises according to your position, table image, and the number of players already in the hand instead of the actual strength of your hole cards.
Information can be deduced from the size of a bet in relation to stack sizes and the pot size. You will not be basing decisions on a single hand history, but rather on patterns that reveal themselves over hours of play.
Some players bet small for value to ensure they are paid off, while others bet make small blocker bets or as bluffs. A strong bet can be for value to build the pot. However, a strong bet is also frequently made with a draw to increase fold equity or with a vulnerable hand (such as top pair top kicker on a draw heavy board) for protection.
Pay attention to table chatter
Do not wear headphones during live games. Keep your eyes on table chat when playing online cash games. Valuable, free information can be gained from what is being said. Opponents can give away their thought process by dissecting hands or discussing pots they have lost and won in previous games.
Watch the action
Some players like to show bluffs to induce their opponents to tilt and to increase the chances of being paid off at a later stage.
- Did they bluff a missed draw?
- Did their hand have any showdown value?
- How many bullets did they fire?
- What was the board texture on each street?
Weaker players might naively show hands they fold to prove that they are capable of making laydowns. Take note of the bet size and the board. For example, if they are willing to fold a good top pair to a large bet when the flush hits, you can exploit this in future hands.
Finally, if hands are checked down, see if the last player to check had a hand with any showdown value.
A note of caution
There are some smart players out there, particularly on competitive online sites such as PokerStars, who could try to create reverse or false tells to purposefully throw you off your game.