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Poker Tells: Creating Your Baseline Behavior

Poker Tells: Creating Your Baseline Behavior
By Loki Luchs of

One of the most important concepts in poker is being able to derive information from an opponent to gain insight into their hand. Many players dedicate themselves to learning the small things that indicate the strength or weakness in their opponents, but it is often just as lucrative to look introspectively; the art of tells are based on the control of information, but this flow of information comes from you as well as going to you!

Most players would earn more money if they could better control the amount of information they give away at a table. This control of information is much easier and just as lucrative as becoming an expert in physical tells. The best way to control this information is by creating a baseline. When we look for tells, itís the deviations from a personís normal behavior that sets off the warning bells. So, if you have a baseline behavior that you never deviate from, you shouldnít have too many holes in your metaphorical boat. The best example of this is Chris ďJesusĒ Ferguson (No, itís not a typo. The god of chaos puts no other poker deity in front of himselfÖ). Every action he makes is identical to the one before it. When he bluffs, he takes slow, measured movements, making roughly pot-sized bets, before returning his clasped hands over his furry mouth and staring at his opponent. When he has the nuts, he takes slow, measured movements, making roughly pot-sized bets, before returning his clasped hands over his furry mouth and staring at his opponent. Itís no wonder that world champions canít get a read on the guy!


A player who has a completely different strategy is Daniel Negreanu. Heís a twitchy ball of hyperactivity (whose teachers in grade school probably had to shoot him with a tranquilizer to keep him in his seatÖ), and is constantly bouncing around in his seat. While this is definitely a different strategy than Ferguson, itís equally effective. How can you get a read on a personís deviations if they donít have a normal behavior to compare it to?

While changing your baseline takes training, an amateur could train themselves to get rid of 90% of their tells within a matter of days, while it might take them months to perfect looking for a single tell. This is for a couple of reasons:

1. While a reoccurring tell on an opponent may only occur occasionally in a real live setting, you can practice your baseline behavior every hand.

2. When youíre looking for tells, you have to train yourself for dozens and dozens of things at once. When youíre hiding tells, you need to worry about only a few repetitive procedures to keep yourself well covered.

3. Using the digital age to your advantage, you could record an hour of yourself playing poker with your buddies and figure out what your own tells are! Once you know what your leaks are, itís easier to stop them.

In the end, patching the leaks in your game is something that is fairly easy to do. While it seems like it should be a natural step in oneís evolution, players never consider the flaws in themselves when theyíre looking for the flaws in others. These players forget how important it is to NOT give away opportunities to superior players. Keeping players out of your head and off kilter can be the key to dominating a skilled opponent.


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