Reading people is not usually straightforward. You have probably heard people say at one time or another ‘I’ve got a tell on you’. Well maybe they have, & for that opponent it is good information.

In most situations it is more complex.

Reading non-verbal communication is easier when you have a number of different pieces of information. These are called clusters, & if they all point in the same direction it is simpler to guess a person’s intentions.

If someone approaches you, makes good eye contact, gives a genuine smile, has open, welcoming body language, & offers their hand for a handshake*, it is easy to add up the pieces & know that person is pleased to see you. If they then offer to buy you a meal from the new Dusk Till Dawn menu – happy days!

Quite often at poker we have got a number of pieces of information. It’s simply a case of putting them together.

For instance, last week I observed a hand where a player went all-in on the river in a large cash game pot. It was a bet bigger than the pot. That can clearly be weak or strong.

He had not instantly moved his chips forward, but when he did, he seemed very comfortable doing it. That seemed strong.

He had checked his cards before betting. Now players can try to mislead, but more often than not, when players check their cards before a big bet, it’s a sign of strength – they want to make 100% sure they have the hand they thought, before committing their chips.

He was sat looking very comfortable.

It all pointed to him having a very strong hand.

The opponent made the call & was shown the bad news – Jack – Ten on JJ8T3.

The signals were all there but the opponent hadn’t put them together.

Maybe the player always looks strong, whether he has it or not, but I would rather take the information at face value in that spot.

Poker players often try to mislead, but it’s tough to remember to fake a number of different tells. Put the pieces together & you should come up with the answer.

*(Regarding handshakes, we build a much quicker rapport with someone, if we ‘match’ someone’s handshake. Match their grip pressure – if they offer a soft handshake, you do similar – & avoid moving your hand on top of theirs whilst shaking. That’s a sign you are trying to dominate them, & that’s not a good start. The strength of the grip is often cultural, rather than a sign of strength or weakness. Don’t beat them, join them.)

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