(Distributed March 7, 2006)
BETTER TO AVOID YOUR OWN TELLS THAN SEEK THEM IN OTHERS
E-mail from The Stud Guy of Davenport, Iowa, raises several interesting issues. Let’s tackle a couple of them.
* Hey Lucky Dog: “You are the answer to my poker prayers! I need help, and I need it now! Years ago I was an excellent seven card stud poker player. My skills got so good that players avoided my table. Now it’s all hold’em, hold’em, hold’em. What can I do? By the way, how do I tell a tell?”
Well, Stud Guy, let’s talk about tells first.
My first reply to you was: “As for tells — I say forget about them. The best players only give false ones, and the bad players are going to lose their chips to you anyway!”
It’s not quite that simple, actually. Tells, of course, are any action, expression or comment by an opponent that might tip you off whether he’s holding a strong or weak hand. Most players have several, and if you’re observant enough to “read” a player’s tells accurately, it can really pay off.
However, the first part of my answer still holds true. In a big tournament against top-notch players, I usually don’t bother looking for tells. These guys don’t give much away. Worse, just when you think you’ve spotted something and try to take advantage of it, boom — you go bust because they tricked you.
Instead of watching for a player’s shaky hand or rapid blinking, pay attention to betting patterns and showdowns, especially when you’re not in the hand. Did he raise before the flop? How much? Does he like to check a powerful hand and then raise after someone else bets? How often does he bluff?
Bottom line: Against elite players, it’s more important to avoid your own tells than it is to look for them in others.
The opposite often is true in a typical low-limit game in a card room. Normally about half of the players at your table will have an obvious tell, such as acting weak when they’re strong or vice versa. Watch out for the player who seems distracted by the cocktail waitress or the game on TV. He may want you to think he’s disinterested in his hand when actually he’s got a powerhouse.
Betting patterns can be a helpful tell against amateurs, too. Some players will raise from last position no matter what they have. It’s pretty easy to trap them into betting their weak cards and then putting in a raise to take the pot. Sometimes you can pull this off without a good hand.
I remember an older woman who regularly played $1-$5 seven card stud in the local card rooms. When she had one pair she’d bet $1. With two pair her bet was $2, with trips it was $3, a $4 bet meant a straight or flush, and she only bet $5 with a full house or better. I always knew what she had!
Against weak or average players, then, watch for actions that give you information about opponents’ hands. Also, your own fake tells sometimes will work.
Now, my advice about your dilemma over the demise of seven card stud in most card rooms: Move to Vegas, L.A. or Connecticut! The largest card rooms still spread stud, but not nearly as much as they did five years ago.
Or, just host your own home game and ban everything except stud!
A TRUE STUD STORY
About halfway through a big stud tournament in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, I was short-stacked at a table loaded with strong players. I needed chips fast.
At one end of the table sat Men “The Master” Nguyen with a tall stack. Three times in 30 minutes, I got all of my chips in against him heads-up — and won all three pots! That third time I started with rolled-up fives (three of a kind) against his A-K-J. We raised back and forth until I was all-in again. He made a treetop (Ace-high straight), but I made a full house.
A 10-minute tournament break came right after the hand, and while I was stacking chips, two other Asian players (Scotty Nguyen and Jimmy Tran) came over to see why The Master was so agitated. I could only understand one word as he described what happened — “all-in, all-in, all-in” — while pointing a menacing finger at me.
Not long after the break, my pair of Jacks failed to improve and John Juanda busted me out with two Aces. I only had two words for him as I left: “Good hand.”
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COPYRIGHT 2006 RUSS SCOTT
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