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Even first-time players knows that poker is a game of odds, and while newbies might not be able to figure them, at least they realize that there’s a relationship between the chances of making a winning hand and how much money is in the pot. But they probably don’t know much about the concept of implied odds (and reverse implied odds) – which sounds complex and foreboding but is really nothing more than the opposite side of a slightly more sophisticated way of thinking about risk and reward at the poker table.
Estimating What You Think You’ll Win

Implied odds offer a comparison of what you think you’ll win – including all the money in the pot right now along with any additional money that figures to come into the pot through bets and calls on future wagering rounds – compared to the cost of a current bet. If this sounds somewhat less than a precise measure, you’re right. Unlike mathematical odds, implied odds involves estimating – or guessing – about the future action of your opponents. When you base a bet or a call on implied odds, you’re wagering not only on the odds related to making your hand, but also on your ability to forecast your opponents’ behavior when your hand comes in.

Let’s look at some examples to clarify this. Suppose you flopped a flush draw, and with two cards to come, the odds against completing it are 1.86-to-1 against you. But without knowing how much money you figure to win if you have to call a bet to draw to your flush, you can’t tell whether it pays to stick around or not. After all, with the odds at nearly 2-to-1 against you, if the all the pot offered was even money – you’d win as much as you contributed – it wouldn’t pay to keep drawing.

In poker, whenever the pot odds exceed the odds against making your hand, it pays to keep playing. When the odds against your hand coming in exceed the reward associated with it, it’s usually a bad deal. A simple way to think about this is that whenever the prize exceeds the cost of the game, keep playing. When the cost to play is more than the money you figure to win, you should fold.

But implied odds can change that equation, and here’s why. While the current size of the pot might not be sufficient to make it worthwhile to take another card or two, if you reckon that the pot will grow substantially on future wagering rounds, your decision might be a different one.
Implied Odds are Best with Hidden Hands

If you’re going to use implied odds as justification to call an opponent, then be aware that some draws have greater implied odds than others. Flush draws are pretty obvious, and most opponents will at least stop and ponder when an opponent who has been calling all along comes out betting when a third suited card hits the board. In other words, unless your opponent is very loose or figures you for a bluff, implied odds with flush draws tend to be smallish, because that third suited card can put a serious damper on any forthcoming action.

Things are different when your hand is hidden. Because hidden hands are more deceptive, your opponent might not realize the strength of it and pay you off with a second-best hand. The best implied odds draw is a double belly buster straight because of its stealth nature.

An example of this type of hand would be a flop of AJ8 while holding QT. While the board looks somewhat disjointed you have eight outs (four Kings and four nines) to hit your straight.

The odds of hitting your straight on the turn are just over 4-to-1 against. The pot odds in this example are just over 3-to-1, so you are not getting the right price to call based only on pot odds. However, the implied odds are favourable with such a hidden hand. An additional upside to a hand like this is that an opponent may have a hand like AK and if a King hits the board he will give you plenty of action and many times never see your stealth nut straight coming.
Betting Structures and Playing Styles

Pot-limit and no-limit games offer larger implied odds than fixed-limit games because of the potential for bigger wagers on subsequent betting rounds. But structure alone is meaningless without an understanding the playing style of your opponents. Passive opponents – the kind of players who call but rarely raise – increase your implied odds because you can draw inexpensively against them and count on getting paid off handsomely whenever you make your hand.

Players have to guard against self-deception when figuring implied odds. Because there’s a certain amount of subjectivity associated with them, some players get into trouble when they use implied odds to justify weak calls. Here’s what we mean.

Suppose you have a flush draw on the turn and with $20 in the pot your opponent bets $10 (as shown in figure 2). Your immediate odds are 3-to-1 plus whatever implied odds you assign to the final betting round on the river.

But unless your adversary is completely transparent or you have a terrific read on him, it’s all too easy to be overly optimistic – and therefore self-deceptive – about how much more money your opponent will be willing to invest in the pot if you make your hand. You might complete your hand on the river and try for a check raise only to have your opponent check behind you. You’ll probably win the showdown, but you would have won more if you wagered an amount your opponent would call.

So the check raise failed. Next time you’re in this situation suppose you bet a large amount instead of trying for a check raise. You’re hoping your opponent thinks you’re bluffing and will call. But instead, he ponders for a moment and then releases his hand. Would a smaller bet – presumably one sized to easily attract a call – have worked better? Or would this have been the time to try for a check raise? You just can’t be certain, and this is the part of poker that’s an art, not a science.
Predicting What Your Opponent Will Do

Let’s back this up a bit. Before you decide to play your draw on those earlier betting rounds, you need to have some idea about what your opponent will do when you complete your hand.

If your opponent is willing to call big bets on the river, you can take a short price on the turn because you know that when you make your hand, the payoff will more than exceed all those times you drew, failed to get there, and either folded or bluffed the river only to have your opponent call and win the pot. But if your opponent is the kind who hunkers down whenever a scare card hits the board, a better play might be to eschew the draw, and bet for value against him whenever you have what you believe to be a better hand.
Warning: The Fast Path to Self-Deception

For some players, the idea of implied odds is a fast path to self-deception at the poker table. You’ll see players calling bets with far the worst of it and if you asked them why, they’ll tell you that implied odds made it a worthwhile bet. While implied odds are a bit of a guess, those guesses need to be fairly accurate to pay off in the long run. Otherwise it’s just self deception – a way of talking oneself into playing hands that really should be folded.

Players who do this are savvy enough to know they shouldn’t play hunches at the poker table, but they still lack the requisite self-discipline to ensure they’ll beat the game. In order to sound like they are smarter than hunch players and any-two-cards-can-win maniacs, they’ll cloak their desire for action – even when the price is clearly wrong – in the mantle of implied odds.

By Lou Krieger

Poker is a game based on information availability. We don’t ever know for sure how good or bad another player’s hand is, often until it’s too late. But because poker is a game of human interaction, we sometimes receive clues from other players, based on changes in their betting patterns or their physical demeanour, which indicates the strength or weakness of their hand. These are called “poker tells”.

A player gains an advantage if he observes and understands the meaning of another player’s tell, particularly if the poker tell is unconscious and reliable. Sometimes a player may even fake a tell, hoping to induce his opponents to make poor judgments in response to the false poker tell. After all, poker is a game of deception.
The Two Forms of Poker Tells

Poker tells come in two forms;

    Betting patterns
    Physical tells

Betting patterns are the most dependable poker tells. By studying the way a player bets both past and present, you will have more information and be better able to judge whether to check or bet. Betting patterns will remain your main tells.

Physical tells, many of which are dramatized in movies and television, are the most fun and will be the focus of this lesson.
Obviously these are only applicable to live poker, where they can help a player win some crucial pots over a lifetime. Unless you are a savant, learning and analyzing a cluster of tells does take some work.
Spotting Accurate Poker Tells is Hard

What makes tells hard to implement is the way they vary from player to player. For example, a player may throw his chips into the pot with force, and then leave his hands out near the action. For most players this means a big hand, for other players, it is a bluff. Some poker tells are false, many are contradictory, and some are just downright unreliable. There is no magic to it.

As you make observation a habit, you will learn to sift through these multiple tells and notice that the first tell is very often genuine, and the shortest tell is the most reliable. Most long, drawn out tells are false, set up to confuse. We have all seen a Hollywood tell as someone makes a screwed up face of displeasure and then bets! The general rule is that weakness usually means strength, and strength usually means weakness. But, you must decide how much weight to give a tell at any given moment. If you make learning tells fun, it will be an ever-changing, exciting part of your poker arsenal.
A List of Common Poker Tells

There are many types of poker tells. The lists that follow in this lesson should only be used as a general guide. The reliability of each varies, and guessing the reliability of each poker tell is an art form. Many tells mean strong with one player and weak with another, it is up to you to tell the difference by being observant.
Poker tells before the cards are in the air

    Watch how players buy in. Do they buy in for a full rack or a short one?
    If a player buys his chips in a loud, flamboyant, money waving act, he will likely play that way.
    A conservative approach to dressing often means a conservative style of poker.
    Sloppy chips stack, usually means sloppy play.
    Do they handle their chips like they know what they’re doing, or do they fumble around like a rank amateur?

Poker tells that may indicate a strong hand

    Fluid speech.
    Shaking hands.
    Full relaxed lips.
    A full, ear to ear, relaxed smile.
    Eyes open, not blinking.
    Stares at flop, and then glance out of corner of eye at players.
    Blood pressure is up. Red in the face or throbbing vain in neck or head.
    Drawing in a big breath, nose flaring, and rapid breathing usually mean ready for action.
    Glancing at chip stacks (their own or yours) to see how much to bet.
    Impatient, wants to bet.
    Suddenly sits back in chair, relaxed, calling or betting.
    Suddenly sits up in chair, becomes very attentive.
    A player’s hands or fingers going closer toward the action, toward the middle of the table.
    Anything held up in the air, shoulders, head, nose, fingers, thumbs, or eyebrows arching.
    Sliding chips delicately, quietly into the pot.
    Look at flop then glancing intensely at players.
    Cheek muscles start to flex.
    Some players try to act relaxed, looking off at a TV or a waitress, and then betting.
    Pupils of eyes get bigger.
    Protecting hole cards more than normal.
    Acting weak by making a noise, sighing or shrugging as they call or raise. (Why give away information when you do not have to? This one is a classic “weakness means strength”.)

Remember, some of these poker tells are more reliable than others. While most poker experts suggest you watch your opponent’s eyes, I suggest looking at his hands. That trembling hand syndrome is usually the sign of a good hand, and it’s the kind of tell that can’t easily be controlled either, so it’s generally reliable.
Poker tells that may indicate a weak hand

    Incoherent, forced, high pitched, slow, broken, or unnatural speech.
    Holding breath and not moving.
    Putting chips into the pot with great force.
    Staring right at you. (Strength means weakness.)
    Picking up a handful of chips like they will go into the pot if you bet.
    Play acting like they are going to turn their cards over prematurely.
    Checking hole cards after flop.
    Treating their hole cards carelessly.
    Inhales when misses and stares blankly into space.
    Breaths through mouth when worried.
    Licking or sticking out lips.
    Lips tense, and get smaller.
    Upper lip develop stiffens.
    Biting lip.
    Tongue in cheek.
    Covers mouth.
    Eyes squinting.
    Eyes blinking.
    Eyeballs rolling.
    Hand over eyes.
    A fake smile.
    Nail biting.
    Hugging oneself.
    Hands and arms go toward the body, toward safety.
    Rubbing of hands, arms, legs, neck, hair, nose, lips, and chin, to pacify oneself.
    Nervously pressing and wring ones hands till knuckles turn white.
    If they stop riffling chips, shaking leg, grinding teeth, tapping, chewing toothpick or gum.

That’s quite a list. Pick a few and see if you can spot any tells next time you play live poker. Now let’s look at some of the fundamentals to successfully spotting tells and other factors you need to consider.
Beginner Poker Tells

It’s important to recognize that beginners will not go to great lengths to confuse you with reverse tells. Don’t read too much into their bet timing or the body language they are giving off. If you are going to look for tells, just know that the most obvious ones are going to be the most accurate.
Online Poker Tells

Since you can’t physically see your opponents when playing online, the physical tells we’ve mentioned are clearly not going to apply. Remember though, that betting patterns are the most reliable of all poker tells. Look out for changes in a player’s betting pattern and observe their timing. A large amount of time before calling can sometimes mean a weak hand, and a fast call usually means a drawing hand. However, timing tells aren’t always reliable, since for all you know the online player is also reading a book, watching TV, or rushing back from the bathroom.
Practice is the Key

Looking for poker tells does not come naturally for most of us. But, after a while you will observe the flow and motion of the table, sifting through countless confusing bits of information, calculating whether to check or bet, all the while relaxing, having fun, talking, ordering drinks, and doing some cheap chip tricks. Once you learn to read the cards (mathematical odds and technical aspect) what is left? Reading people!

You can’t study everyone and everything at once. So focus attention on individual players during your poker session, and never fail to watch a showdown while replaying what you observed during the hand and correlate it with the hands the combatants turn up. The very best time to study your opponents is when they’re involved in a hand and you’re not.

Practice is the key to reading any tell. Whether you are a trained observer in poker or a trained criminal scene investigator (CSI), the key word is trained. Learning the poker tells listed above all at one time is difficult. It is more fun to learn a couple every time you play. For an example, one night at your casino, home or bar game pick a player and watch his energy levels. While he won’t go from nearly comatose to sitting bolt upright in his seat, most players do shuffle around in their chair and sit upright when they have a good hand – or at least a hand they intend to play. Watch everyone’s posture all night and it will become a habit and you will ‘train’ yourself to be observant at the table.

Another way to train yourself is to observe just one or two players for the first 10 minutes and then gradually add other players to the mix. Start with the player closest to you, because they are the ones that affect your play the most. For instance, can you tell if the players to your left are going to fold or raise? Can you tell if the opponents on your immediate right are calling with a big hand or just want to see a cheap flop? Here’s a tip – players with cards cocked in their hand who look like they’re ready to pitch them to the dealer when it’s their turn to act usually do just that. It’s not a universal poker tell, but it’s accurate more often than not.
Setting Up False Poker Tells

You do not want to give off tells, so watch yourself. Do you lean toward the action when you have a good hand? Try this – when you have a marginal hand (such as JT on the button) sit up in your chair, be obvious, squirm around a little, raise the pot, and look at the other players. Notice who looks at you. You just gave them a false tell. They think you have a big hand. Bet the flop and watch them fold. Note which players are not sophisticated enough to notice your Academy Award performance, and be aware of the players that do not ’seem’ to notice but are thinking, was that for real, and who is this hot dog.
Don’t Overestimate the Importance of Tells

Some poker players spend way too much time searching for unconscious poker tells and greatly overestimate there importance. Every poker player knows that they are supposed to hide their emotions and disguise their true intentions. Even people who don’t play poker know this. Sure, some players will exhibit obvious physical tells from time to time, but the conscious things that poker players do at the table are of far greater significance.

Focus on the bigger picture first and categorize your opponents. Are they tight-aggressive? Are they loose-passive? How tricky are they? Putting players into broad categories that define their playing style and tendencies will help you far more than concentrating on the small and unconscious things.
Conclusion

Physical poker tells are nowhere near as important as studying betting patterns and playing styles. Once you have mastered these then, and only then should you look for the classic poker tells that many players exhibit. But tells are fun, and very few players concentrate on this part of the game – so you will have an advantage. Granted, poker tells will not make you money on every hand or every hour, but over time, they will add to your profitability. In any business, if you could increase profits you’d be very happy.

By David Sasseman

There are many young players who have not realized something about a playing bankroll. Many of them don't separate their playing cash from their regular expenses. That makes their playing bankroll fluctuate because they need money to live. This creates a difficult situation because the player never really knows what their true progress has been.

If you keep your playing money separate you can calculate where your weaker points are and fix them. If you have to keep pulling money out of the bankroll to live your life you won't be able to climb up the blind levels like you should be. You'll also have to keep adjusting the game you're playing in because your bankroll shrinks and climbs at a wider rate than normal.
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For some, this question is moot. What does it matter why you are winning as long as you’re winning, right? Wrong. While it is true that the important thing in poker is winning, the “why” behind the win is equally important. If you want to repeat your victory in poker, you’ll have to know how you achieved it in the first place. The question of whether poker is a game of skill or chance is a common one. Gambling does rely on luck but good judgement will always increase one’s success.

This issue is also pertinent on a wider, social scale. Some people think that poker – like slots – is a mere game of chance. If so, then it would be right to include poker in the ban made by the United States government against payments towards online games of chance.
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Having a big stack in a poker tournament is not the solution to your problems, despite the confidence that it (quite naturally) fills you with. When you get a larger stack, your playing style needs to change accordingly and move from being a tight aggressive player to working with more hands and loosening up your game. Then, later in the tournament, your stack is the single best asset you have.

Early On: Looser Calls, Play Aggressive

To keep your lead in a no limit tournament (or, indeed, any tournament,) you have to keep putting more chips in your bankroll. If you've established a lead early on in the tournament (and indeed, as you are playing in the middle stages), don't be afraid to start making make looser calls from the flop, limping in hoping to hit a nut hand. Later in the tournament, you may leave hands like 67 or 78 to the side, but if you can afford to gamble a bit with your chips and be more aggressive, don't be timid.
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Heads-up poker, particularly in lower-stakes, pot-limit games is a great way for an aggressive player to build their bankroll quickly, but it does require more than just guts to get ahead when playing one-on-one against someone who likely has the same agenda as you. Some of the basics of the game as played with multiple opponents still apply, but they’ll need to be modified for the duel.

Pre-Flop
In heads-up games, you’re dealing with a greater variety of cards in play at any given time, simply because there’s only two players with a deck of 52 cards, meaning that there are 1326 different pocket card combinations for each of you. Read more…

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