In most lower limit games, eliminating your own tells doesn’t much matter. Most people are very unobservant. But the tougher your competition becomes, the more you should try to become unreadable. Becoming unreadable is more than just wearing a completely stoic poker face at all times (although that will help). If you’ve read this whole book, you know there are quite a number of ways a person can leak information. I’ll go through a few ways you can start trying to limit the more common tells.
How long you take before calling, betting, or raising can reveal information about your hand. For example, some player’s immediate calls can narrow their hand range a lot. For another example, some players will never bet immediately as a bluff. If you’re playing against observant opponents, you’ll want to balance your bet-timing range so you’re not giving away any information.
One way to do this is to occasionally take a significant amount of time even when the decision to call or bet seems obvious. This will establish in your opponents’ minds that you’re capable of taking a long time to make an “obvious” decision. This will allow you extra thinking time in hands where you really need it, without making it obvious to an observant player that you are doing something out of the ordinary. This is what it means to “balance” your bet-timing range.
In most games I play, even limit, I always wait at least a couple seconds before acting, no matter how insignificant the action seems. This was a discipline I originally began to follow to give myself a little extra thinking time, even when things seemed obvious. But it also has the added benefit of making me more unreadable.
Where you look after you bet is a major source of information leakage. As is the amount of eye- contact you make with your opponents in different spots. When playing against good competition, you should try to remain consistent with your eye patterns, especially after betting, as this is when you are most under observation. One strategy for post-bet behavior is to stare at the middle of the table and to remain as motionless as possible. This is the strategy taken by a lot of professionals in big-bet games.
Betting motion tells
Study your own betting motion tells. Do you sometimes toss chips in forcefully when you have a good hand? Or do you do that when you’re bluffing? Try to make your actions consistent and unreadable. Find a way you’re comfortable betting, and then force yourself to make that same motion every time you bet.
If you’ve read this book thus far, you are aware of the many ways poker tells can show up, so you’ll know how to limit your own behavioral leaks. In most games, though, trying to always be completely unreadable might not be the best business strategy, because it might make you seem too intense and serious, which can lead to people playing harder against you. Also, constantly staying completely stoic gets kind of stressful after a while.
For these reasons, you might decide it best to assume a more friendly and relaxed demeanor for most situations, while reserving your full-on game-face for the serious spots. You might make a personal rule that says you will only enter your “unreadable” mode when the pot gets over a certain amount of money, or only after the turn or the river. This also reserves your focus for those tough spots when you really need it most.
Those are just a few examples of things you should probably think about when playing against tough competition. Only with experience will you get to a point where you can remain unreadable while still feeling comfortable and relaxed at the table.