Even a teacher can still be a poker student

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Bernard Lee ([email protected]Poker), is a talented poker pro, radio host/columnist and big money winner.

I was anxious to read one of his recent columns, especially since I was in the midst of teaching a five-week poker class for my Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group that incorporated the concept and use of tells, among other key topics.

This 15-hour class included the Four Basic Rules for Winning, the Hold’em Algorithm, figuring and using your outs and odds, and the Art of Bluffing. My new book is the text for the bluffing portion of the class. It explains the Esther Bluff tactic, break-even for bluffing, the importance of position, semi-bluffing, and bluffing tells – in addition to other special tells, and how to interpret and use them.

I was somewhat pleased when reading Lee’s version on tells. It discussed so many of the special tells and concepts for using tells that I have often written about and teach to my students at the senior center – some of which I believed were unique.

Nevertheless, I did learn a new preflop tell from Lee’s column: While I teach my students to look to their left as the holecards are being dealt out to observe tells from the opponents who will declare after them as that information can be valuable, one tell I had never considered was whether the opponent holds his holecards in his right or left hand. (Note: I have since checked out that tell; it has limitations.)

Assuming your opponent is right-handed, holding the cards in his right hand (his dominant hand with which he usually picks up chips to bet) indicates he plans to fold when the betting gets to him – and, vice versa. He will call if the cards are in his left hand.

I have since discussed this tell with my students. They already knew to observe how many chips the opponent picks up in preparation for his bet – whether he plans to just call or raise.

On the flop

As the dealer lays the flop on the board, I advise my seniors to study especially the first few opponents to their immediate left. Their facial expressions and physical movements can be great clues (tells) as to how the flop effected their hands.

In as much as the flop permits players to see over 70% of their final hands, they are anxiously watching the board – while you watch their reactions. That split-second reaction is almost certain to be involuntary and hence more meaningful than many other tells. If you are focusing your attention on the flop, you will miss those clues.

More about tells

Recently, while playing at a local casino, I noticed one of my students playing at the same table was prone to shake his head from side to side when the dealer placed a “bad” card on the board. I later informed him of his tell and discussed it in class.

Some of the other topics related to tells that we explore include nervous reactions when a player catches a big hand (especially the shaking hand), and glancing at his chips when planning to bet or raise versus losing interest in the hand when it fails to connect. An example is diverting his attention to the basketball game on the big TV screen on the wall or looking away from the table.

We also discuss the merits of paying close attention to the game and our opponents (Basic Poker Rule No. 4) when we are not in the hand (most of the time), how to interpret the meaning of each tell, situations for or against trying to bluff (including the use of tells) and being aware of reverse tells. The Richard B. Reverse Tell serves to reinforce the Esther Bluff tactic.

What’s your “take” on using tells? (Email to [email protected]) A prize for the best response received before the next two weeks.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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