Reading Poker Tells is being called the best book about poker tells by many players, both amateur and professional. Besides cataloging the most common poker-related behavioral patterns, the audiobook gives a mental framework for analyzing and remembering poker tells.
©2012 Zachary Elwood (P)2013 Zachary Elwood
As far as I can find (please tell me if I'm wrong) only Elwood and Caro have anything really practical to say about reading live poker tells. Elwood is more focussed on NL Holdem and is more up to date but most of what he says validates Caro principles. Real live poker players will scoff at some of the rubbish turned out by most so-called body language experts (ex-FBI agents in particular). Lying in poker is most definitely NOT the same as lying in real life. It is part of the game and the consequence of being caught out are more likely to be commiseration or guarded admiration than admonishment or prison. This makes a big difference to how a person behaves at the poker table vs real life.
This is a well structured book and Elwood uses real examples to demonstrate his points that clearly come from his experience as a professional poker player. Some of his comments in the appendices will ring true with a lot of live players that are not compulsive gamblers and play for the skill, stamina and concentration involved. Personally I try and avoid cash games for fear that I am taking money from weak individuals for whom gambling is an illness and poker a placebo. Its comforting to think that some pros feel the same way too.
Elwood also makes the point that there are no cast iron rules and this is not an easy checklist that will turn you into the Darren Brown of poker. It takes a lot of concentration and experience and noting behaviour patterns is hard when you are also thinking about your own strategy/table image as well as hand-ranges and percentages.
"I'm a Better Player Now"
I immediately put this advice into practice, which allowed me to take 2nd place in a NL tournament last weekend. I owe two big playing improvements to this book:
1) I’m now better at observing the behavior of others.
2) I’m now better at observing my own behavior.
On observing others…
I took more account of the activity around me. Especially after folding, I started truly observing and making informed predictions of the strength/weakness of remaining players’ hands. Aside from the occasional surprise river-made hand, the results were well-aligned with my predictions.
On my own behavior…
This book helped me understand how much information I was regularly giving away to others. To combat this, I made some needed adjustments and saw immediate results. For example:
-Early in a round, with a weak hand, I started feigning nonchalance and stopped being so obviously fixated on my opponents’ betting actions. Then later in that round, still with a weak hand and bluffing, I took more time to bet, call or raise, and I increased the level of eye contact with opponents in order to demonstrate confidence.
-Early in a round, with a strong hand, I feigned interest in my opponents' bets. Later in the round, if I had the nuts, I avoided eye contact or any sign of hand confidence.
And then I walked home with cash.
Taking these classic tells, and reverse engineering them for my own performance, made all the difference. Here lies one of the few suggestions I have for this book: instead of focusing on the tells of others, there was runway to ask the reader to reflect on himself and his own actions and determine what to adjust. Perhaps it’s implied. Perhaps it lives in Elwood’s other book. Or perhaps Elwood will present new material: “Now that you know what they’re doing, here’s what you need to stop/start doing.”
On the narration:
Elwood’s tone and style is quite flat. One could argue that a more skilled narrator could really add some needed spice. However, this isn’t Shakespeare; it’s poker. Ultimately, Elwood’s matter-of-fact style really lent itself well to his credibility. The subtext of every sentence says: “Hey, none of this stuff is really groundbreaking. It’s pretty logical and intuitive, you just have to notice it.” That’s a good angle for a book like this. Furthermore, Elwood made it impossible to forget the chief point of the book: account for an opponent’s previous behavior before determining their tells.
My one last piece of advice might not be feasible. I’d like a cheat sheet. This is an audible book with a tone of reference material. I took careful notes, but access to a downloadable summary would be a really nice addition. This is a general challenge with audio books, so I don’t fault Elwood one bit.
I can’t wait to listen to Elwood’s other book. Meanwhile, I remain very grateful for this read and I’m confident that any player can take something from it.
"This is not your average tells! great Read!"
Makes you realize that there's more to just playing strategic poker. Just by paying attention to your opponents and seeing the subtle tells can improve your game!
"Good information for and about recreational players"
I enjoyed this book and found very helpful information for the recreational player, which best describes me. Several of the tells that Zac describes have a high degree of accuracy and consistency. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to improve their ability to read poker tells.
"One of 2 books that have changed my game"
if you are a player with strong fundamentals and have learned all the nuances about the game this book and Jared Tindler's the mental game of poker; will allow you to take that knowledge and start making money in the ever increasing challenging player pool.
"Finally! It all started to make sense!!"
READ THIS BOOK!! or MY LIGHTBULB EXPLODED!
I finally began to understand all the things I was seeing at the poker table, but didn't know what they meant. I had been looking at and for the wrong things and not paying attention to the things that matter.
If poker tells is where your game is weak. Then this is the second book you need to read right after Mike Caro's book of tells. The author references the book several times and it will help to understand those references. Then... READ THIS BOOK!! All those little nuances that I saw happening at the table now speak volumes to me. I will buy his next book he is currently working on involving Verbal Tells.
"The book paid for itself times 20 on my first day."
Great book help me notice alot of my tells I do when I'm strong and or weak. Definitely worth the read.
"Found it very useful"
I think reading this improved my play. Being aware of my tells and being able to use other people's tells to make my decisions is very useful!
"the best in poker tell"
This is the best poker tell, I wish there is video. I enjoyed listening to the audio book.
"This and his other book, verbal poker tells, are great."
Great books. Loaded with solid information. They pay for themselves. Also the author reads them, which is normally a better experience for the listener.
"Very informative and well organized"
Don't make me write 20 characters when all I want to submit is the headline. I've now gotten around your requirement, silly developer, you haven't gotten a review, and you've only pissed me off.
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