Every time I use my car I must leave through the apartment building’s basement parking garage door. I depress the horn multiple times after the loud rumbling of the automation completes, and then back out slowly, adding a few more beeps. Once per week, despite all these warnings and the obviously awkward spot I am in as a driver, one or two people walk directly behind my racey coupe, forcing me to slam on the brakes so that I don’t bump or even injure them. Their incredible stupidity drives me crazy. My heart races while my brain is outraged. Maybe half the time they are made deliberately oblivious by their headphones. The other half?
If no one is paying attention when their body – maybe even their life – is in danger, you can imagine how little goes unobserved when a small portion of someone’s entertainment budget is on a poker table. Sometimes Wakiza and I, waiting for a seat, stand by the rail and call out the action, unnoticed. The abundant tells the players give off are comical.
I remember watching bumbling, cheerful Calling Smurf during one of these private broadcasts. After reaching the river with his super strong, nuts roasting on your flaming stack line, he pointed to the skies with both his fingers, in one of those children’s patty cake “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple” finger formations, an expression of such surety and optimism that even uncorrelated an opponent could snap muck a weak full house.
Yet, much like the people I would prefer to run over, our villain here wasn’t even looking at what was right in front of him. I watched this fellow, his heavy nose forward, nearly sniffing his chips, mouth silently ajar in that board-studying pose we are all too familiar with. Whatever’s going in on in that rattrap brain, it’s with the equivalent of headphones on.
Villain pays him off, completely baffled (man can you have it here?), his brain distantly registering what might be the sounding of a small horn (is that a goose bro? what is that?). Calling Smurf slams down top full (Ace rag, naturally, played from under the gun) LIKE A BADASS SMURF YO. Rewarded again, despiting pointing to the sky to celebrate a giant holding. Wait what's that card? Yes, Touchdown!!! Oh, and call 911.
I’m not going to take this in the direction you hope I will. I’m not here to give away my own inventory of tells and behavioral advice. Go find that yourself, buddy. I simply want to make a point: the information is out there. What is keeping you from using it? Why are so many of you, dear readers, walking behind cars?
Many players who struggle with their live game talk about “not knowing much about tells” or some such, as if they were dropped from space and unsure about how the humans might communicate. (I like how in this analogy there is possibly a planet where all the aliens do is play online cash games.) In the old days, this would have been a major leak. Over time, as the math of poker was disseminated, it became possible to easily arrange one’s actions in a profitable, but ironically defensive, posture known as the Tight Aggressive Game. Folding every hand until a nice one came up, and letting the nature of the game take its course from there. Profitable.
However, are players really much better now? In an age where Calling Smurf gets paid off, the argument is not entirely as open and shut as you think. In an age where everyone knows this math stuff (more or less), in an age where Splitsuit is so sure everyone at his tables studies poker that he surmises it’s reasonable to produce a t-shirt that brags about how hard its owner is working on his game, is there something missing that you should be paying attention to?
Hey, study away. Crack that GTO code. Watch dem videos. Listen to Andrew Brokos and feel smart. Do all that stuff. Of course. Wouldn’t dream of saying otherwise.
It’s just this – most of us aren’t going to be honking and braking at the poker table.