It’s a cool article for a number of reasons, including the fact that Zach includes YouTube clips of the hands to go along with his commentary explaining the tells on display. I also dig the inclusion of an Oreo cookie in the accompanying illustration which is even funnier when you realize Zach doesn’t even talk about Teddy KGB in the piece.
All five of the featured hands kind of fit in a similar category filled by players with huge holdings trying to mask their strength. But Zach does a neat job with each hand breaking down the different kinds of behaviors being demonstrated, adding a useful caveat that while the tells in the clips are all fairly obvious, many “are seen in much more subtle forms in more experienced players.”
I’ll let you click through to enjoy the clips and the analyses yourself, but I wanted also to mention how I like the way Zach begins the article.
Writing for the wide audience that reads Deadspin, Zach starts out noting the fact that “the poker tell is one of the most romanticized ideas in gambling.” He then points out how “in reality” tells often work differently -- “usually more subtle than they are in the movies.”
That distinction between a romantic version of poker (such as is often presented in film) and a realistic one is something I find myself going back to time and again in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class.
We watch a lot of clips in the class and thus see over and over again what Zach is talking about with regard to the exaggerated tells. But we also address the same romance-versus-reality debate in a number of other contexts, too, such as when we read Al Alvarez’s The Biggest Game in Town and talk about the difference as representing different approaches to the game.
That’s a discussion I’ve had here before amid a long exegesis of one chapter of Alvarez’s book, if you’re curious.
Save reading my old post for later, though, and go enjoy Zach’s new one now if you haven’t already.