Joe Navarro: Learning to read poker tells

Joe NavarroRe-published courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly since writing 200 Poker Tells is, “How do I get to where I can read others like a pro?”

When I entered the FBI, I thought I was a fairly good observer. I had been studying body language for several years and thought what more could there be? Well, a lot, so much so that I’m still learning. I honed my observation skills and looked for things I’d never imagined, such as how often a suspect looks at his watch (something about to happen) or what’s his blink rate (nervousness). These cues gave me insight into these individuals and their actions.

We can always improve our observation skills; there’s always more to observe; it’s a continuing endeavor and it never stops because we can never know everything there is to know about body language or tells. The best we can do is study them and validate them every chance we get.

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Learn to put players on hand ranges

Lee Childs, courtesy of Ante Up MagazineRe-printed courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.

You sat down at a $1-$2 cash game in a casino and bought in for $200. You’re in the cutoff seat, one seat right of the button. You’ve only been at the table for about three hands and don’t have any information about the players. Those in this hand are under the gun (UTG) with $300 and UTG+2 with $140.

Both limped for $2 and it folded to you with {k-Hearts}-{j-Hearts}. Which of the following do you do and why?

A. Fold B. Call $2 C. Raise to $15 D. Raise to $20

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Are you playing non-exploitable poker?

Re-published courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.

David Apostolico

Much has been written about exploiting opponents on the felt. This is a critical part of the game. If you can’t identify and exploit the weakness in opponents, you’ll rarely have an edge and ultimately you won’t be successful. I’m quite sure every winning player spends a great deal of time and energy on this aspect of the game.

What is less certain is how much time and energy is spent on a related aspect of the game: making yourself less exploitable by opponents.

Take a minute now to do some soul-searching and ask yourself how much time and energy you spend working on exploiting others vs. working on preventing your exploitation.

Be honest. I’m guessing you spend more time on the former. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t believe an equal amount of time needs to be expended on both or that there’s any right percentage.

Every player is different and should play to his strengths to maximize his profits. However, I do think players at every skill level could spend more time and energy working on making their play less exploitable.

So, how do you do this? Mixing up your play and not being predictable is obviously a good starting point. However, poker isn’t played in a vacuum.

If you’ve been super tight in a tournament and find yourself getting short-stacked when everyone folds to you on the button, you may feel your tight image has built some fold equity for you and it’s time to make a move.

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Should You Slow Play the Flop in PLO?

Jay HoustonRe-published courtesy of our content partner Ante Up Magazine.

When is it correct to slow play on the flop in pot-limit Omaha by checking behind in position? The answer is rarely. For the most part it’s correct to never get tricky in PLO because you need to balance your ranges so often that betting tends to be the most optimal play in the long run.

Imagine you’re heads-up, in position and looking at a flop of 10-9-4 with two hearts and you hold 10-10-x-x. You should never really check behind in this situation for a few reasons: If your opponent has a set then you’re missing a golden opportunity of getting it in as a huge favorite.

If your opponent has a draw, you’re making him pay for that draw if he calls. If he check-raises with his draw we can get it in as a favorite most of the time.

Balancing your range: So when SHOULD we check behind? Most people would argue the exception comes when there’s a locked board (e.g. a flop of A-4-4 when we have A-A-x-x.

The logic in checking behind is: Your opponent usually doesn’t have much and you can possibly get him to bet into you on the turn with nothing.

Most people are hoping for that incredibly slim chance that the turn is something like a king and your opponent has K-K-x-x, but relying on coolers like that is not the way of the optimal ninja, now is it?

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