Monday, April 27, 2009

Telling From The Tells

My dad used to say you can learn a lot about someone by knowing their poker tells, but I never really bought into that. I mean, you can learn how to take their money, sure, but other than that I have no idea what you’d learn. I’m guessing Dad mostly used that line as a way of explaining why he spent so much time at the poker table – he was just “learning” about people. It wasn’t, however, a line that Mom bought much either.

Our regular poker game the other night got me thinking about that little theory of his. Castle had us all over to his loft – which, by the way, makes me wanna get into the bestseller business – and as a result, we got to do our game in nicer digs than the usual locale of Esposito’s bachelor pad. Plus, there was the added bonus of seeing Castle’s live-in mother, Martha, embarrass the hell out of him. Was almost enough to make me feel okay about having Captain Montgomery bluff me into folding three queens with his pair of fours.

Was ruminating on Dad’s theory because, even though I’ve picked up a tell or two of my poker buddys’, I couldn’t say a thing about what it ‘revealed’ about ‘em. The tells, however, are amusing enough in and of themselves.

Castle’s tells become obvious pretty early on in our game, since Martha had a nice habit of letting us exactly what they were. Clearly, the man has a nasty tendency to blink when he’s got a bad hand and to tap when he’s got a good one. Funny thing is, even though Martha was spilling the details to us, Castle got so worked up shushing her that he couldn’t focus on stopping from doing them.

‘Course Martha’s not one to brag either, her tell's an easy one to figure out – it’s whether or not she’s in the hand at all. She folds early on anything that isn’t good. So if she’s staying in, she’s got the goods and there isn’t any bluffing her out of the game. She’s in ‘till the bitter end, no matter how high you raise her.

If you’re playing with Captain Montgomery, you just gotta keep a look at the expression on his face. The man loves to pull one over on any of us – it’s his way of reminding us who’s in charge. So if he’s got a smile on his face, you know he’s bluffing. The Captain just can’t restrain his pleasure at knowing that he’s about to smooth talk you into throwing down your perfectly good hand. Of course, he’s sometime slick enough to wait until after you’ve folded to pull it out. Last game, I didn’t even need to see his cards. When he got that grin on his face after I folded, I knew I'd been conned.

What about my boy Esposito? Well, he never met a terrible hand he didn’t like. Or, to put it more precisely, he never met a terrible hand he wasn’t convinced that he could remake into a terrific hand by waiting for the flop, the turn, and the river. He’ll be holding a 2 and a 4, off-suit, and be convinced that he’s somehow gonna spin that trash into gold. All you need to watch for is that intense look he gets in his eyes as he stares at the cards – it’s him imagining the magical series of events that will occur to turn his useless pair of cards into a game-winning hand. And once you see that look, you can be assured that you’ll be making a nice chunk of change betting against him.

Which brings us to Beckett. Now, to be honest, I didn’t figure out her tells until recently. Every other time I think I’ve got them figured out, she takes a whole stack of my money and proves me wrong. It’s been a damn expensive learning process, I gotta say. Just last week, I was convinced that she was bluffing whenever she would glance down and tug on that oversized wristwatch of hers. So I put my money where my theory was… and came away fifty bucks poorer.

But by the end of the game, I think I’d figured out her “real” tell. See, she has this habit of glancing down twice at her cards whenever she had a real set of cards… and glancing down just the once when she had a hand that she was bluffing on. So next week, I’ll be smiling over a mountain of chips if my hunch proves right. Of course that’s what I said last week…. And the week before… And the week before that one too. Huh.

On second thought, I’m starting to think Beckett may have figured out my tell. It’s whenever I’m convinced I’ve figured out her tell. Hmm… Maybe this week I’ll keep that Beckett theory of mine on the theoretical level. And just fold whenever she stays in. But man, where’s the fun in that?

Y’know, maybe Dad was onto something…

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