From Publishers Weekly
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...doesn't mean that someone isn't watching you. At the middle-limit tables, assume that you are always being studied. Your opponents' observations will fall into two basic categories.
It's hard to know when you've got them, and keeping them out of your game requires dedicated effort. Always remain observant of what you are doing. Do you look down at your chips before you are ready to make a bet? Or lean back in your seat while waiting for someone to decide whether or not to call your made hand? Do you bet quickly when you're bluffing and slowly when you've got the goods?
Experience is probably your best ally against physical tells, as your hand probably won't be trembling -- generally a sure sign of a monster hand -- after the fourth or fifth thousandth time you've bet into the river. You might also want to get into the habit of not looking at your cards before the flop until the action gets to you. Not only will it be impossible to reveal any clues to the nature of your hand, but you can use the time to scrutinize all of your opponents for their own tells. Same goes for the flop -- watch your opponents instead of the cards. You'll have plenty of time later to see if you connected with the board, but you won't get a second chance to see your opponents' immediate reactions.
Chris Ferguson, the World Champion in 2000, suggests that self-examination is the best way to discover tells in other people. "By observing my own behavior, the way I react in certain situations, I'm able to recognize those behaviors in other people."
Here are some tells for you to look for, both in yourself and your opponents:
Some players have a tendency to lean back in their chairs after making a bet, waiting for you to decide what to do. They usually have made hands.
Shaky hands mean strong hands. If a player's hands tremble as he makes a bet, proceed with caution.
The Strong Move to the Pot
Players who are loud or physically aggressive in their betting are often bluffing, while those who bet as if they were afraid to wake up the person sleeping next to them are generally looking for you to call. As is the case with many tells, strong means weak; weak means strong.
Another example of a strong/weak tell: When a player, after making a bet or raise, looks away from you, she usually has a strong hand. A player who looks directly at you after a bet is likely on a bluff.
Reaching for the Chips
When a player starts to reach for his chips before you've had a chance to act, he's usually trying to scare you into checking your hand. Fire away. Looking Down at the Chips
Many players unconsciously glance at their chips when they're planning to bet or raise.
Beware of the Speech
Someone who goes out of their way to make a long, prepared speech after raising you or betting into you on the river probably has the nuts. "Wow, I can't believe it. I'm just really lucky today," or "If I raise you, will you call?" are typical examples.
Silence Is Golden
A chatty player who suddenly shuts up usually intends to play the hand she's been dealt. This is especially true of players in the blinds, making it a good idea to engage them in conversation whenever possible.
Your opponents will constantly be trying to assess what kind of player you are. Are you loose and wild, susceptible to dominant hands? Or are you a rock, easily bluffed out of the pot when you're not holding the nuts?
The type of table image you should be striving for is something that is still hotly debated among poker's more prominent thinkers. Some believe that it's best to seem like a tight, thoughtful player, garnering more respect for your raises (thus increasing the odds that your better hands will hold up) while allowing you to slip a few bluffs into the mix. Others argue that you should play the part of the maniac, forcing your opponents to call you all the way to the river to pay off your winning hands.
One thing everyone can agree on is that you don't want to appear weak. Weak players are bloody chum for the sharks of the poker world.
The best approach is probably to vary your image. This applies both to the types of hands that you play -- sometimes it's okay to limp with aces and raise before the flop with your suited 5-3 -- as well as the way that you play them. Don't fall into obvious betting patterns that reveal too much about the strength of your hand.
Text copyright © 2004 by Phil Gordon and Jonathan Grotenstein