Limiting Your Tells Against Observant Poker Players

Ability to read another player is what separates consistent winners from the rest. Perhaps one of the single best ways to improve your game is by improving your ability to read situations. The only thing better than that, is improving your table character so that you make sure that they cannot read you. Sitting with more advanced players than yourself makes it tough to read what they have because of the sophistication of their play, however, they most likely have a read on you. If you follow a few simple strategies, you can make it tough for observant players to read you, thereby, presenting a table image as a hard to read player: a tough player. These techniques mostly apply to players from beginner to intermediate, but will make any great technical poker player even better.

Be Consistent In Your Actions

This is the best strategy for being tough to read. Be consistent in everything that you do, whether you have a monster or rags, bluffing or betting, in the hand or observing. This rule guides all other rules. It has been said that you always want to mix up your play so as not to be read. This is true. I am not advocating that you always play your hands the same way, but your behavior should be consistent.

Bet the Same Amount

This is applicable to mostly no-limit, where the amount you bet can be almost anything you like. When you site down at the no-limit table, always bet the same amount no matter what your betting hand is. It is more advisable to pick a relative amount rather than a fixed amount: that is always bet an amount the same size as the pot, or always bet double the pot, etc. This is more advisable to a fixed amount; for example always betting 30 dollars, as a 30 dollar bet on the river into a 200 dollar pot is not advisable in many betting situations. Good players will always consider your bet amount when trying to get a read on you. Even good players can subconsciously give away important information in the amount they bet. Until you master the psychology of betting, consistent betting will ensure you won't be giving another player any advantage.

Maintain the Same Body Posture

This has to be consciously done, and practicing your poker posture is a good idea. What your posture you choose is not that important, but it is critical that you assume it every time minute that you are at the table. Every time I would sit at a table I would consciously go into this posture. My winnings went from an average of 20 dollars an hour to almost 40 dollars an hour. Good players first look at your posture when trying to get a read on you.
Minimize movements. Scratching the face, playing with chips, playing with cards, squirming in the seat, are all movements that can potentially give information away to better players. The simple rule is the less mannerisms you have the less they can hurt you. Be comfortable at the table and this "stone" table character can be achieved and will be effective. Wear comfortable clothes, and make sure that you have had enough, but not too much to eat or drink before sitting at the table. Being hungry, or worse giving into that feeling and having food or drink at the table will inevitably give rise to many patterns of body, mannerisms that the better players will catch, and break you with. As well, needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of a big or tough hand will have you squirming like a chicken, thus giving up information that you never want to give up. Having a player call your bluff thinking you were squirming because of weakness, when it was only your full bladder that you were thinking of is regrettable and avoidable.

Remember Your Cards

This tip is mainly for beginners, but it is surprising how often even good players make this mistake. Re-looking at your cards usually means that your are on a draw, that is cards came out that gave you a possible straight or flush that you initially did not think about. It is also a good idea to look at your cards as soon as you get them rather than only when it is you turn to play. There are good arguments for both card peeking strategies: looking right away or looking when it is your turn. For our purposes, looking at your cards when you get them means the dealer is still passing out cards to everyone and players are less likely to be watching you, thus limiting their opportunity to see your reaction to your cards.

Although these techniques are mostly aimed at beginner to intermediate players, they can, and are, used by even masters of the game. Whenever you are in the tough game against observant players who are watching you, it is best to first assume this style of play, until you get a read on the other people at the table and can switch gears.