Let’s talk WSOP

I’ve spent the last year working on a new book called “Verbal Poker Tells.” It’s focused on during-hand verbal behavior — finding patterns in what poker players say and how they say it.

playing cardsBecause it’s WSOP season, I thought it’d be fun to showcase some interesting verbal behavior and conversations from past WSOP events. All of the following hands (and many others) are featured in my “Verbal Poker Tells” book, which is due out for sale in June.

You’ll notice that most of the following hands focus on behavior from players making significant bets: this is often the most meaningful place to look for behavioral information. With large bets, hand strength is likely to be polarized (either a weak hand or a strong hand). Also consider: the later the street, the more likely hand strength will be polarized. A river bet is much more capable of giving meaningful information than a pre-flop bet of the same size.

Also remember: this behavior will mainly apply to amateur, recreational players. Experienced players are more likely to be balanced and tricky with their verbal behavior.

2010 WSOP Europe Main Event

Dan Fleyshman is the pre-flop raiser and has bet the flop and turn. The river board is Q♣ 4♣ 4♦ 5♠ A♦.

Fleyshman bets 100,000 into a pot of 432,000. His opponent, Brian Powell, considers.

Fleyshman: “You’ll never guess what I have.”

Powell: “Two-three?”

Fleyshman: “No.”

Powell: “Aces full?”

Fleyshman: “Nope.”

Powell: “You hoping I missed those clubs?”

Fleyshman: “That’s part of it … I was very sad when the ace got there.”

Results: Powell calls with K♥ Q♥. Fleyshman has A♥ 4♥, for a full house.

Fleyshman’s opponent asks him if he has the straight or a full house. Fleyshman replies “no” to these questions. These responses are what I call “weak-hand statements.” These are statements that weaken a speaker’s range. His statement of being “sad when the ace got there” is also a weak-hand statement.

Bluffers will hardly ever want to imply weakness about their hand, even in a joking way. Because Fleyshman is willing to subtract strong hands from his range, it’s very likely he has a strong hand of some sort.

Also, statements about what hands a player doesn’t have are very likely to be true, much more so than statements about what hands a player does have. For this reason, Fleyshman’s negative responses are very likely