Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tell Study: The Shakes

Tells are the little ticks people have that leak information; the more we can identify, the more we can both hide and exploit that all-important info. I will break them down right here, one by one.

The first tell to which I’ve turned my attention are shaky hands. It is a common misconception that shaky hands are a sign of fear. Players do the fear math and assume Mr. Shaky has a weak hand. Therefore, any bet is a bluff.
The opposite is likely true. Players never make the decision to bluff when scared. True, they may become scared if they believe you may call their bluff, but that is after it has been made. The shaking hands were likely noticed as the chips were moved into the table. As a rule, shaking means strong, not weak.

You have probably heard this before, I know I have. Many poker books speculate that shaking is the sign of a monster hand. While this is a much sounder assumption than fear, I have a bit more to add.

I’ll go ahead and admit, this tell affects me. Like most tells, it is a subconscious occurrence. Unlike many, it isn’t one that can be easily controlled once identified. Imagine getting a stubborn case of hiccups at the table, it just kinda has to run its course. Because of this, I’ve played very close attention to when it happens. The good news? I don’t give away as much information as I thought.

My hands shake when I have the most at risk. It happens when I have a significant portion of my chips on the line, whether I have the nuts or I am bluffing my ass off. Further analysis shows:

  • I am usually the aggressor

  • The temperature is usually cold

  • The risk is a function of relative chip stack and completely independent of whether or not the chips represent hundreds of dollars or nothing at all

  • Early Parkinson's may be setting in (but I hope not)


My opponents already know when I'm risking most my chips and am playing aggressive, so if that is all that can be summized from my wavering paws, my net information loss is zero. It is important for you to keep in mind that while you may perceive something as a tell, it may mean nothing. Inversely, it is important that I keep in mind that while I have found causes for my "tell," they may not be the only causes.

I recognize that I have tells. We all do. As soon as I recognize and understand mine, I'll be sure that you and my other possible opponents will be the last to know. If you have had any noteworthy experiences with tells, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Now you're going to start a trend of players wearing gloves at the table.  Pretty soon it'll be hoodies, sunglasses, parkas, gloves and wading boots.

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