Image by TomStardust via Flickr
A player asked me to describe how I notice a poker tell and use it during the game. Here is an example that may help you in your next tournament.
I entered a tournament at Lucky Chances where the starting chips were $6,000.
Step 1. Observe your opponent while you are in a hand.
The blinds were $25-$50. I was in a middle position with A-Q and I called an early position raiser. The player on the button, call him Ben, also called.
The flop comes A-rag-rag. The pre-flop raiser bets $400. I call as does Ben.
The turn comes another rag but this time the pre-flop raiser checks. I check and Ben bets out $800. I call. The other player folds.
Ben looks up at me--this is a new action. I am thinking, "Maybe this is a tell? What can I associate this glance at me to mean?"
The river is a blank. I check and Ben bets. I call. He also has A-Q and we split the pot. I am thinking now, "Ok, if he looks at a player, it means he has a good hand. Does that mean if he doesn't look at a player, he is weak?"
Step 2. Observe the same player when you are not in a hand.
A few hands later, Ben is against the same pre-flop raiser. Both players check the flop. Ben bets the turn and gets called. Ben never looks up at his opponent. Now, I'm thinking, "What does this mean? Is Ben weak here?"
Ben bets the river and his opponent calls. Ben is on a total bluff and loses. He folds his cards showing he had a draw.
I am now thinking that Ben has a tell. I don't think this player is good enough to be aware he is even doing it, so I am around 90% confident in my read.
Step 3. Use the tell, even if it looks like you may be beat.
The next level is $50-$100. I am down to $5,500.
In back position, I raise pre-flop with J-10. Ben calls on the big blind for $300.
The flop is A-10-3. Ben bets $600. I call knowing that if Ben looks up at me, I am beat if I don't improve. Ben doesn't look up at me. I am thinking he is weak.
The turn is a blank. Ben bets $1,500. If I call this bet my stack will be almost cut in half. This is an important play early on in the event. I trust my tell and I call.
Ben still does not look up. I am not fairly certain Ben is weak here.
The river is a blank. Ben checks. I reach for chips and start counting out how much to bet, hoping Ben does not have a weak Ace. Before I complete my bet, Ben mucks.
That tell increases my stack almost 50%--it is a nice start.
I hope this helps.