Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mixed signals from a fish... a nice tell to pick up on...

What I came up with after googling "poker tells."  An interesting picture, but nothing to do with the post
I was playing last week with one of my favorite fish, an older gentleman (and I use "gentleman" loosely; he's a curmudgeonly mean fella).  We were sitting at the 1/3 game over at the 'ole 'Shoe - I had long since folded out of the hand, but was paying particular attention since I had raised $15 (AK in EP) and the BTN had called alongside my fish in the SB or BB (one other player between me and the BTN was in the hand as well I think, but that's inconsequential).  The flop was 4 x x - 2 clubs, and I checked because it was very likely one of the 2 or 3 players hit the flop and was going to call regardless my bet sizing.  As it turns out, the fish checked, I checked and the BTN led out for an amount which escapes me (large enough to not be profitable to float), but the fish came along.  I think the turn was a 6c completing the flush 3flush.  The fish checked once again and the BTN continued to bet; the fish called very quickly...

There's a tell right there - the fast call.  One can interpret the fast call one of two ways, but either way, it means he's non-nuts here -- very likely a drawing hand.  Think about it this way: if he had a nutted or formerly nutted hand, wouldn't he take a bit longer time to make a decision?  If he had the flush, he'd surely stop & thinking about check raising, concerned about a 4flush killing the action or counterfeiting his hand.  If he had a set, he'd surely think about how to charge for the draw to the 4 flush and consider the possibility of his opponent having a flush.  Either way, my fish fast calls because he's anxious to see the river.

The river was a blank non-club leaving 4 6 xxx, 3 flush on the board and my favorite fish bet big, as he usually does (one huge hole in his game is he overvalues the hell our of his hands, but that's just the tip of the iceberg of problems with this particular fish).  After he bet, the BTN went into the tank and the fish took his cards readying them for the muck.

As close as I could come to a graphic of the "fold hold"
There's the other tell - the hold the cards ready for the muck / threatening to fold / daring the opponent to make the call.  This call coincides with strength, or perceived strength in my fish's case - and combined with the turn fast call tell, I read that this player has what he views is a strong hand, but it is a non-nut, likely non-flush hand.  Therefore, I read him for a set or two pair.

The fish's opponent eventually calls and, low and behold, as you may have guessed because I somewhat "led the witness" from the hand telling above, our fish shows 4 6 for the turned 2 pair.  Putting it together in reverse, he fast calls the turn, wanting to see the river as quickly as possible with his "drawing hand."  He's looking for the miracle 4 outter on the river, but somehow decides on the river that his hand is strong enough to go with...  By the reaction of his opponent tanking, he becomes very confident in his hand, going into "threatening to fold" mode.

Moral of the story is two-fold:

  1. Always pay attention after you fold your hands.  You're not there to play on your cell phone or watch TV (note my last post about the tale of two regs).  You're there to get better and make money while doing so.  You should have fun, but remember why you're there!
  2. Put tells together and put them into motion in your play.  When you see someone else doing something obvious, not only make sure that you don't repeat their mistake, but also make sure to take note and take advantage of their tell.  For example, I actually was doing the fold hold for a long time until I realized it's a clear tell and forced myself out of that bad habit.  Now I notice when others do it - it's certainly improved my game.
FWIW, the fold hold tell was pointed out to me in Zach Elwood's book, Reading Poker Tells.  I've mentioned his book before in prior posts.  If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and take a look.  It's well worth it!

Side note: I was talking with the dealer very quietly during the hand; we were whispering back & forth speculating on the fish's hand.  The dealer was absolutely convinced that the fish had the A high flush, while I was saying that he has a hand that he thinks is strong, but it is definitely non-flushing.  We both saw the same exact tells, but the dealer took the tells for extreme strength - fast call on the turn, fold hold, etc., while I saw it as a mix of the two.  Make sure that you put the tells together correctly rather than in isolation - and also make sure you read the tells for what they are... i.e. fast calls usually mean drawing hands, fold holds usually mean extreme strength.  And since I've always wanted to say this, but it's finally apropos to the discussion, "I've upped my game, so up yours!"  But seriously, I hope you take something away from this post - learn something about your opponent's game, but more importantly, learn something about your game.

Final note:  Mr. Elwood has a whole series of poker tells online.  Take a look at his examination of the immediate call:

If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and watch his whole series.  It will take about an hour but your game will be enriched to a greater degree.

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