“Ultimate Guide to Poker Tells” Review

[LL] “How about the Ultimate Guide to Poker Tells, which was published the same year as Navarro’s book?” Leroy the Lion prodded.

[DD] “I liked it just as much, partly because it covered different ground. My favorite section was right near the beginning, where they categorize players into five stages of tells:

  • Stage 1: no concealment of emotions – beginners
  • Stage 2: quiet with monsters but transparent with weakies
  • Stage 3: acting (reverse); most low-limit recreational players never get past this stage
  • Stage 4: minimizing tells – Vulcan poker (Navarro’s advice)
  • Stage 5: read opponents’ tells and give off only subtle reverse tells

[LL] “So now you have a goal beyond becoming a Nava-robot.”

[DD] “Not by much, but yes, for reading tells the co-authors say that exaggerated gestures are probably fake while subtle gestures are probably real. So we should obviously tone down our fake tells.”

[LL] “Doesn’t it matter how observant your opponents are?”

[DD] “Burgess and Baldassarre don’t cover that, but I think that’s important. Just like you need to know how deep your opponents are thinking.”

[LL] “Don’t waste a subtle tell on an opponent who isn’t paying attention to you?”

[DD] “Or maybe saying something may be more effective, since they’ll hear you even if they aren’t looking at you.”

[LL] “What else did you learn from what’s actually in the book?”

[DD] “Like Caro, B&B want you make your baseline assessment of a new player from their appearance. They agree that a messy chip stack means a loose player, but think you shouldn’t read into a neat chip stack anymore.”

[LL] “Because most players do that now as a matter of efficiency?”

[DD] “Something like that. They also disagree with Caro on what a number of tells mean. At least in limit poker, they think grabbing chips early means strength, not weakness, while prematurely starting to fold is weak, not strong (although later on, they say the opposite themselves).”

[LL] “Like a lot of poker, it usually depends on the player!”

[DD] “And the type of poker being played. The authors give long lists of specific tells for Limit Poker, High-Low Split Games, and No-Limit Hold ‘Em. Some great stuff, but unfortunately the real tells are mixed in with reverse tells, so it’s all very confusing.”

[LL] “That certainly doesn’t make it easy to learn.”

[DD] “Fortunately, they do spend on chapter on how to improve your reading ability. Like Navarro, they want you to become more observant. Their advice seems good, even though I hate that they use the terms ‘poker psychic’ and ‘intuition’.”

[LL] “So, you don’t believe in women’s intuition?”

[DD] “I guess it depends on the definition, but to me ‘intuition’ means ‘gut instinct based more on feelings than facts’. Yet B&B go on to tell you to build your ‘poker database’ of observations. Those are facts.”

[LL] “Maybe they didn’t have the guts to try to unravel the complicated deductive process, so they waved their hands and called it ‘intuition’.”

[DD] “Lastly, the book does have a decent chapter on hiding your tells where they recommend Vulcan poker. Sigh. And there’s an interesting bonus chapter on angle shooting,1 which was eye-opening, although I wouldn’t want to play in any game where I had to worry about that stuff.”

Title Ultimate Guide to Poker Tells
Author Randy Burgess and Carl Baldassarre
Year 2006
Skill Level Any
Pros Thorough coverage of tells, including the Stages of Tells and specific tells in various types of games.
Cons Occasional contradictory advice and intermingling of actual and fake tells. Low quality photos.
Rating 3.5 (out of five)

Footnotes:

  1. Angle shooting: the use of questionably legal tactics to one’s advantage. The difference between angle shooting and outright cheating can be razor thin and may even depend on the venue’s specific rules.
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