Caro's Book of Poker Tells

Mike Caro


Rick Carabba
The Psychology & body language of poker. Directives, % reliability, & value/tell. Mandatory for serious poker players. Only reason it's not a 10 is because it only applies to pokies. All from data & footage out of Mike Caro's poker lab. Beauty.
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Book Note

Caro's Laws of Tells

  • "players are either acting or they aren't, if they are acting then decide what they want you to do & disappoint them."
  • #1:¬†players stacks are directly indicative to their style of play.
  • #2:¬†people buy chips in the same manner as their style of play. flamboyent is loose, conservative is conservative
  • #3:¬†an unsophisticated player who bets, then shares his hand while awaiting a call, is unlikely to be bluffing.
  • #4:¬†a trembling shaky bet is a force to be feared, rarely call.
  • #5:¬†in the absence of indication to the contrary, call any bettor whose hand covers his mouth
  • #6:¬†a genuine smile usually = genuine hand, forced smile usually = bluff.
  • #7: the friendlier a bettor is, the more apt he is to be bluffing
  • #8:¬†a player glances secretly at his chips only when he's considering a bet. &almost always because he's helped his hand.
  • #9:¬†if a player looks & then checks instantly, it's unlikely that he improved his hand
  • #10:¬†If a player looks & then bets instantly, it's unlikely that he is bluffing
  • #11: dissapoint any player who, by acting weak, is seeking your call
  • #12:¬†Dissappoint any player who, by acting strong, is hoping you'll pass
  • #13:¬†players staring at you are usually less of a threat than players staring away
  • #14:¬†players staring at their hands are usually weak
  • #15:¬†players motioning & picking up chips preemptively are usually weak
  • #16:¬†a weak player who gathers a pot prematurely is usually bluffing.
  • #17: when a player acts to spread his hand prematurely, it's usually because he's bluffing.
  • #18:¬†if a player bets & then looks back at his cards as you call, he's likely bluffing.
  • #19: a forceful or exaggerated bet usually means weakness
  • #20:¬†A¬†gentle bet usually means strength
  • #21: when in doubt (of where to sit), sit behind the money
  • #22:¬†when you see 2 tells that conflict, the player is acting. Determine what he's trying to make you do by his most blatant mannerism. Then generally do the opposite.
  • #23: a misdirected bet is almost always a bluff. (meaning if someone targets an obviously weak player with a big bet, it's almost always a bluff)
  • #24: beware of sounds & sighs of sorrow
  • #25:¬†Don't call pokerclack


Other Notes

  • "keep a cool disinterested attitude, you should be as eager to pass as you are to cool"
  • Most hands are played at whim, subject to the influences of human nature & behavioral biases
  • Well dressed ppl are usually conservative players, sloppily dress ppl are usually looser players.
  • some claim ppl wearing religious items are more luck conscious, hard to bluff, & play too many pots.
  • I don't necessarily agree with this next line of reasoning (tries to put ppl on stereotypes), but I think it's worth quoting..... "as a general rule, women are harder to bluff than men, orientals are either very skillful or very luck oriented, most blacks tend to gamble more liberally than other players"
  • The whole name of the game is to look at behaviour & all the ways they organize/act &¬†peg someone as more conservative or more liberal.
  • sloppy chips = looser, neat stacks = more conservative.
  • often players will keep their "profit" stacked on top or separate from the starting stack. If you notice this, you can usually make a bet slightly larger than their profit to bluff them out of hands.
  • Bluff conservatives more than liberals
  • If someone's making obnoxious gestures or flailing around looking for attention, they are in a gambling mood. Bluff them less, call them more.
  • If someone just won a big pot & are still collecting/stacking chips, they likely have a shorter range & will only enter if they're strong.
  • If a player is shaking, tapping their hand, or doing some other nervous habit that is a release of tension, they usually have a heater. Calm players are more likely to be bluffing.
  • Pay attention to a players breath. holding their breath or shallow breathing is a sign of bluffing.
  • If someone makes a big bet and stares at you intimidatingly, it's likely he's bluffing.
  • If an opponent looks at you briefly, offers a semi-smile, then looks away, that's another tell he's more likely to be bluffing.
  • if someone's knee is jittering under the table (another release of tension) it's extremely unlikely he's bluffing.
  • if he normally does this, expect him to stop if he bluffs.
  • covering mouth is usually an unconscious attempt at hiding expressions which almost certainly means a bluff
  • double checking hands usually means someone is weak or bluffing
  • they want you to think they're mulling over a powerful hand
  • overly guarding hand usually means strong, strong hands aren't looked at for a long time, if someone is spending a lot of time looking at their hand and the flop it's likely they're weak
  • Players remember denomination more than they do suits.
  • If a flop comes all the same suit, then a player peaks back at his hand, it's likely he didn't catch a flush yet, bc suited cards are remembered easier than off suited cards.
  • fearless players (ppl who are strong) can more easily engage in random calm side conversations than bluffers. If someone bets big and you ask them a trivial quesiton about politics, bluffers are more likely to stay silent or force conversation unnaturally than ppl w/ dynamites.
  • genuine smiles are signs of strength, forced smiles or smirks are signs of bluffing
  • genuine giggles mean the same thing
  • many bluffers remain almost unmoving bc they don't want to give you any info that would expose them.
  • When players are moving around, being themselves, acting naturally, it's unlikely they are bluffing.
  • If you ask someone straight up, are you bluffing, if he disregards and just motions you to play the game, he's not likely to be bluffing. If he get's playful, engages, or even flat out says yes, it's more likely to be a bluff.
  • if a player glances at your chips, he like's his hand, especially if glance is quick & fleeting
  • however if he gives your stack a long look after already seeing his hand he could be preparing a bluff.
  • When cards are dealt, don't look at them, look at your opponent.
  • When the flop lands, don't look at it, look at your opponent!
  • so on & so forth
  • sand-bagging= checking then raising
  • If a player does a quick glance at their chips, unconsciously after seeing a flop or card they are very likely to be strong
  • IF a player is whistling or in converstation then all the sudden stops to focus on the hand, he's prob strong.
  • If a laid back conservative player perks up, it's likely they got something worth playing
  • It's unlikely that the other players are aware of the tells discussed so naturally people will call if you're moving more and will fold if you're staying still.
  • Almost all physical interactions will constitute a call, so if you're strong, shuffle your cards, talk gibberish, smile insanely, tap the table. All these tings bring attention to you & give your opponent a reason to call.
  • if ppl have to think, it's usually because they actually have to think
  • bluffers will usually take more time to consider then non-bluffers
  • quick checks usually mean the flop didn't help. If there's an evaluation period for thinking (not staring at his cards then back at the flop)¬†it's likely he has a hand worth thinking about
  • players who don't look until they must are likely to need improvement
  • If you're in a suspenseful situation (on a draw or fishing for something), You're less likely to look at your hand until the last second.
  • If you make an ambiguous gesture towards the persons area or space (obvuously not actually touching them) & they cover their cards, they likely are strong.
  • An opponent is probably acting if he believes you're watching & if your decision matters to him
  • a shrug of uncertainty, usually means certainty.
  • If someone acts like they're going to pass but then calls, beware.
  • players who look away from the action are always more dangerous then players who look at the action or the bettor.
  • as you pickup your chips, look at all the people in front of you if they're looking away, at you, or at the flop.
  • If someone is trying not to look like a threat, they probably are a threat
  • watch others as the flop comes out, if they look away when the flop comes out, they're likely strong
  • if someone motions like they're going to toss their hand before it comes around to them, they're likely strong.
  • If a player takes a sizable amount of time to make a decision after a bet & then raises even hire, it's unlikely he's bluffing.
  • Players will not waste energy making you think they're strong when they really are
  • people who overtly stare and analyze flops are usually weak, ppl who look away are usually strong.
  • players looking at the bettor are generally less of a threat then players looking away
  • A¬†deep breath to stabilize heart beat could indicate a strong hand.
  • reaching for chips preemptively to show strength usually means they're weak
  • If a player is looking back to his cards while a bet is in progress, he's almost always weak.
  • If a player bets then looks back at his cards as you motion to call, it's likely he's bluffing.
  • If someone's exposing a card, assume that a weak exposed card means the other cards were strong & a stong implying card means the overall hand is weak
  • players will often sigh, look away, keep hands off chips, etc. to appear weak and get your bet.
  • Principle:¬†if someone is trying to seem weak, they're often not.
  • if someone is trying to discourage your bet, they likely have weaker than average hands.
  • if a women is staring at you & reaching for her chips when it's y0our turn to bet she's probably weak.
  • women who threaten to call are more likely to follow through then men
  • If a player wants a call, they'll be very careful not to threaten you.
  • If a player couples his bet with the words "i bet"or something else authoritative, it's likely he's weaker
  • if he makes a bet with a submissive & timid tone it's likely they're strong.
  • if someone gently slides their bet into the pot they want you to call, they're prob strong.
  • If someone extends their arm and adds a little extra flare or flick of the wrist to their chip toss, it's likely they're weak.
  • someone who exaggeratedly tosses her chips into the pot is likely weak, call with a good hand, raise to scare away
  • If someone looks at their cards & makes a bet in the same motion, they're likely strong
  • Best to sit to the left of players who play too many pots, that when when you raise they'll likely already have money in with a value bet but if you were to the right of them & you raise they'll probably fold.
  • Best to sit to the left of very knowledgeable & agressive players. Let them act first or they'll often fuck up your strategy.
  • Sit immediately to the right of players who don't defend their blinds and call frequently enough. That way if it gets around to you &noone else is in, you 3X, then you can often collect blind & ante.
  • Sit to the left of players who are timid in attacking blinds.
  • When i doubt, sit behind the money
  • sit to the left of loose players.
  • If someone's head is facing away but their eyes are side-eyed at the bettor, they're likely strong.
  • If someone's head is facing away but their eyes are looking at the pot/flop, they're likely strong.
  • If you can intimidate your opponent, they'll provide more & easier tells, because they'll move to less controlled primitive behaviour (they'll act strong when weak & weak when they're strong)
  • If you motion your hands like you're about to bet, & the person to the left simultaneously reaches to their stack like they're going to call, they're likely weak. They subconsciously want you to think you're willing to call anything, i.e. you're strong, so that you don't bet. Bet & watch them fold. (NOTE:¬†this works best on average/weak players-- contrast this line with the next)
  • Strong players will reach for their chips while you bet in hopes to yield some information. If you double check your cards, it tells them that you're weak or bluffing. Conversely, if someone in front of you is betting & you're on the fence, reach for your chips & see if they double check their cards. If they do they're likely weak or bluffing. Especially if after you grab your chips they follow through with the bet aggressively into the pot.
  • If the player doesn't hesitate when you grab your chips and follows through w/ the bet, he's likely strong.
  • Players who ask "how much is it to me?" are almost always strong. especially if they raise.
  • if someones tone of voice sounds sad or uncertain they're prob strong
  • if they sound hella confident and cheery, they're prob weak
  • if they say "i bet..." as if their hand is obviously strong, they're prob weak.
  • If you hear someone sigh, they're prob strong.
  • If they shrug their shoulders, they're prob strong.
  • If a player is usually humming or whistling, this means nothing. BUT, if a usual hummer or whistler stops, it usually means they have a strong hand worth concentrating over.
  • Same goes for people who talk at the table, if they are chatty but then stop, they got somethin hot.
  • The sound of your tongue clacking against the top of your mouth, the pokerclack, almost always means a monster hand.
  • Same goes for the lip smacking, tsss-ing, etc.
  • Don't call a shaking hand unless you too hold a monster
  • When you spot tells, don't act on them immediately
  • Never tell other players when you spot a tell
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Rick Carabba is a writer looking for uncommon ideas that improve people's lives.