Post-bet tells: Strength

Post-bet tells refer to those tells that a player exhibits after he has made a bet or raise. The tells in this section are post-bet tells that indicate a player has a strong hand and would like a call. They are in a very rough order so that the tells I consider most important are listed first.

LOOKING AT YOU

Some players who are betting for value will be more likely to make and sustain eye contact with opponents.

Most players with eye-contact tells will fall under one of two categories: if they have a strong hand, they’ll either increase their amount of eye contact with an opponent, or they’ll have less eye contact with an opponent.

In my experience, it’s more common for players with strong hands to have increased amounts of eye contact. This is because most players’ default behavior is to avoid eye contact when they bluff, so when they have a strong hand their relaxation results in them making more eye contact.

If you were going to try to observe a single type of tell, I would recommend studying a player’s eye contact behavior in post-bet situations. These are the easiest types of tells to study, and they are also the most useful. You can usually peg a player’s basic tendencies after just a few significant pots.

We all know the feeling of having our opponent right where we want him. It can be a good feeling; looking at someone we know we’re going to beat. There can be an element of schadenfreude there; savoring the feeling of crushing our opponent’s hopes and dreams (at least in that one hand). This is also a contributing factor to why many players show a willingness to engage in increased eye contact when they hold a strong hand.

Increased eye contact with an opponent isn’t widely associated in most people’s minds with having a strong hand. In fact, the opposite is true: there’s a big misconception that players who stare at you are probably bluffing. People have been misled by the often-repeated mantra that ‘strong means weak’. But as I’ve stated, strong often can just mean strong, and this is especially true for eye contact. The fact that most people don’t know the truth is also what makes this tell so powerful.

When trying to elicit this tell, I will often pause for a while after an opponent bets. When faced with a decent pause, a mediocre player with a strong hand will often engage you in some way, even if it’s very slightly. They might start to glance at you, or look at you questioningly, or even get an irritated look on their face. Sometimes you will just get a blank, neutral stare that goes on for a few seconds. Against most players, when I see a willingness to look at me, the chances have gone up that I’m facing a real hand. (I don’t recommend burning up a lot of time on a frequent basis, but for important pots a longer pause can sometimes lead to great information.)

An especially meaningful combination is when you look at an opponent who has just bet, and he has disappointed body language (slumped shoulders, a frowning face, etc.) and he’s looking at you a lot.

These are two very strong indicators by themselves; when combined they can be very meaningful.

LOOKING AWAY FROM YOU

Some players with strong hands will be more likely to avoid eye contact after they’ve bet.

If you haven’t read the previous tell, do that now.

Some players’ default behavior is to stare at their opponent. Some of these players will be less likely to engage in eye contact after betting with a strong hand.

The previous tendency, of increased eye contact when betting a strong hand, is more common in my experience. I wanted to include both tells here because eye contact tells in post-bet situations are so important. You should watch your opponents in these situations and see if they fall under either of these tendencies.

GETTING LOOSE

Players with big hands will be more likely to be physically loose.

Players who are relaxed act differently from players who are not relaxed. Relaxed players are more likely to move freely, breathe freely, look around, make jokes, make insults, and act purposefully strange. For certain players, any behavior that seems physically relaxed will be a very good indicator that they have a strong hand.

Even when it is not obvious on the surface, you can sometimes spot physical looseness in hands, eyes, shoulders, or legs. Even sometimes when a player is feigning anxiety or disappointment with his face, you will see the looseness in his extremities. His hands might move loosely over his cards, or gently flex his cards, or tap the table. His head might not move, but his eyes may move around in a relaxed way. Blinking might be spontaneous or rapid—it won’t look restrained. His neck movements may be looser. His breathing and his chest movement might be loose and unrestrained.

Sometimes shaking legs can give someone away. A player exhibiting shaking legs after they bet is giving away their relaxation level, simply because a bluffer, or otherwise vulnerable player, will not usually want to attract attention to himself. Also, a bluffer is usually too full of tension to do something as loose as shaking his legs. While this tell is not always easy to see, you can sometimes notice a player’s shirt moving, indicating that his leg is shaking.

REAL SMILES

Players with big hands will be more likely to show genuine smiles.

An average player, assuming the stakes are significant to him, and assuming he’s in a significant pot, will be more likely to show a genuine smile when he’s comfortable with his hand. If he’s not comfortable with his hand, he’ll be more likely to show a false smile. See the post-bet section on fake smiles for more information.

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