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Poker Tells: Watching the Eyes

Poker Tells: Watching the Eyes
By Loki Luchs

Weíve all heard the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul. When a parent is interrogating a child about a broken cookie jar, they make the child look them in the eyes to see if theyíre lying. This is because a personís eyes give away a great deal about what theyíre thinking; this is as true in poker as it is in parenthood.

From a biological standpoint, our eyes are the interpreters of the majority of the information we process. As we evolved, it was an advantage for us to have instinctive, autonomic responses to the stimuli around us. If a snake catches your eye and you react without wasting time to think about it, youíre generally going to live longer! These same processes that have taught us how to react, now work against us at the poker table. When we see something that we know could be dangerous, or something that makes us sense fear, our bodies brace themselves for the pain. If you see someone flinch when they see the cards hit the table, they probably missed the flop. Similarly, when we see something that is unfamiliar, we will often continue to stare at it in order to piece something together. If the person continues to stare at the flop, theyíre desperately trying to piece together how that flop might have helped them.

Another common tell occurs within the first fraction of a second when the flop hits; when an opponent connects with the flop, you might see their eyes dart toward their chips. This is a very high confidence tell because the player is excited. He know that the flop helped him and he wants to know the exact location of his chips so he knows where to reach! The reason this tell is so accurate is that itís based on our autonomic reactions! Itís engrained into our genetic code that when we something advantageous, we want to get to it before anyone else does. This player is so eager to put his chips in the middle that you will want to lay down anything short of a strong hand or draw. Itís important, however, to catch this tell at the moment of the flop, because it vanishes immediately. If you find yourself doing this, Iíve found that there is a great way to use this to your advantage. Most players try to stop this tell by wearing a low-brimmed hat or sunglasses, because hiding this tell is easier than training yourself to stop doing it. If you feel like thereís a person who has picked up on this from you, practice doing it all the time! The second any flop hits, glance at your chips. Your continuation bets will pick up the pot much more frequently!


If you donít witness the flop-glance, be careful of itís counterpart! It occurs when a player stares at the flop for a few seconds, stares at his chips for a few seconds, and THEN bets. This tell usually means the exact opposite! This person is mentally double-checking that the flop didnít help them. When they realize that it hasnít, they stare at their chips and ask ďShould I bet anyways?Ē When this opponent bets, he will usually try to stare you down, mentally willing you to fold. Just remember that they are trying to intimidate you because they DONíT want you to call! Staring someone in the eyes can be very intimidating, but donít be afraid to stare back. When you do this, youíre challenging them. If theyíre bluffing, their instinctive reaction will be to overpower you, or dominate you, with their eyes.

By watching a personís eyes, you will be able to gain valuable information on your opponentís reactions to stimuli. Keep in mind that if you are picking these tells on someone else, they may very well be picking them up on you! If you find yourself unable to control this reaction, donít be afraid to take the appropriate precautions to protect yourself; a dollar store pair of sunglasses could save you a thousand in giving away your hand!


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