Poker: The Reverse Tell

We’ve talked about tells plenty of times, but what about the tell that isn’t what it appears to be? The reverse tell is, simply put, a form of misinformation that is designed to make your opponents believe they’ve got a grasp on what your hand is when, in fact, you’ve got something much better (or worse.) You are, for lack of a better phrase, lying without saying a word, imitating a behavior you’ve self-identified as a tell or actually imitating a behavior that’s fairly widely known.

Let’s say that you know a guy you play with regularly has been reading Navarro’s (excellent, to be sure) Read ‘Em And Reap book, in which he discusses poker tells that are part of the poker community as a whole. In that book, Navarro states that people lean in a bit and get “closer” to their cards and chips when they have a strong hand but push back a bit when they’re weak. If you’ve seen your friend using this tactic to identify when you have strong or weak hands, then you can push back a bit while you’re holding strong cards and get him to pump the pot a bit.

The best way to use good reverse tells is to set your opponents up over a few different sessions. If you’ve seen Rounders, you’re familiar with Teddy KGB’s tell, in which the Russian player splits his Oreo cookie in half when he’s holding a strong hand. This is, of course, an extreme Hollywood-style take on a tell, but if Teddy were as good a player as the film would have us believe, he would have used that Oreo as a setup to a reverse tell and blown Matt Damon’s character out of the water.

Common tells can all be reversed to create a piece of misinformation to use at the table. For instance, beginning players naturally begin to get nervous when they’re holding a monster hand — much more so than when they’re bluffing, in fact. If you’re playing with a new group of people who don’t know how good you are at the game, try acting a bit jittery when you’re betting. By acting like you’re holding, you can scare others out of the hand. Also try glancing at your chips when you’ve seen the flops. This is a tell that tells most other players that you’ve connected in some way and are holding something that can make you money.

Finally, try looking away from the flop immediately after giving it a glance. It’s a clumsy way in which many people try to feign disinterest in the hand, saying that they’ve not made something playable, but if you do it while bluffing, you can get other players to view your hand and your next few moves differently. The reverse tell is not a move than can be done by beginners and they don’t apply to online poker games for the most part, but they’re an incredibly powerful tool to help muddle your table image.