Home Articles Books Coaching Free Stuff About

Using Your Opponents’ Words Against Them

Don't miss one article! Subscribe to the Full Feed RSS or get NPA in your inbox.

I know many of you are eagerly anticipating the second installment of my preflop starting hand chart series. It’s still in the works, and it should be coming soon. In the meantime, I’ll share a hand I played this weekend where something my opponent said turned a somewhat tough decision into a no-brainer.

Getting your opponent to talk and betray information about their hand is a bit of an art. I’ll admit that it’s not one I’m particularly good at. I generally just keep my mouth shut and my eyes focused on the board in the “stare down” situations. But occasionally an opponent will start talking to me, and what they say will tell me something about what they have. The more I’ve played, the better I’ve gotten at decoding some of these slip-ups. This one is something of an archetype.

The remainder of this article is insider content available to premium members only. Log in to your account or become a premium member and get instant access.

Tags: , , ,

15 Responses to “Using Your Opponents’ Words Against Them”

@ Wed Aug 29, 2007 11:07:59 AM

Interesting. I never thought about this particular tell.

I play mostly online so a lot of my tell-reading skills are sub-par. However, I have started trying to get people to talk a little bit when I play. Sometimes I just make a comment on the size of their raise. I like to do this when they 3-bet me just to see if they are screwing with me or not. I may know as soon as they 3-bet me that I am going to have to fold regardless, but it is nice to try to find out if they are 3-betting you light. If you can get them to somehow reveal the strength of their hand you can use that information in the future to make laydowns or making a big reraise.

@ Wed Aug 29, 2007 11:56:52 AM

Actually, I think this tell is fairly common — whenever someone says “I can beat hand n”, he usually has hand n+1, and when he says “I’m afraid of hand n”, he usually has hand n-1. In fact, the great Phil Hellmuth gave off both tells in a single episode of HSP.

@ Wed Aug 29, 2007 04:12:47 PM

re: n, n+1
but in this case, villain asks if hero has “n” – which is AAA, and perhaps wants you to think he has “n+1″ but in reality he has hand “n+3″: he can beat a set, a straight, and a small flush.

Ed Miller
@ Wed Aug 29, 2007 06:21:34 PM

For what it’s worth, I’ve observed that not only can the player usually beat whatever hand they mentioned, but they usually have the nuts (or at least close enough to be confident they can beat whatever hand you are thinking about).

@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 05:22:37 AM

On the flip side, Ed, I was asked “Do you want a caller?” by someone while I was chunking it with pocket Aces in my local 1, 3 no limit game. He hit his K and was trying to put me on QQ or AA. I sat there mute, feeling anything I said would reveal information. Any advice?

@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 05:32:42 AM


remove iPod plug/glasses if applicable
point to pot
point to stack
ask “What are the odds I would want one?”
replace iPod plug/glasses.



@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 11:35:27 AM

Actually, I think this tell is fairly common — whenever someone says “I can beat hand n”, he usually has hand n+1, and when he says “I’m afraid of hand n”, he usually has hand n-1.

It’s funny, I use the anti-tell all the time when I have air and I want to see if I can get someone to fold. “Well, I can beat blah blah” or “What do you have there? blah blah?” A couple of people that I play with regularly will give a strong is weak sort of tell back to you if they can’t beat the hand your representing. Stick in a big raise. Hope you’re right. Practice your sheepish look in case you’re wrong or get looked up light. Good times, good times.

@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 03:01:13 PM


I like it.

@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 03:15:16 PM


Your opponent is searching for any information he can find. Remaining mute there is always the solid choice UNLESS you are such a good actor that you think you can completely sell being one way or the other (depending on your holdings, of course).

Let him make his choice based on something other than your words or kinesics, in most cases, unless you are as skilled an actor as say, Ben Affleck.

***I was able to type that last comment with a completely straight face. Fear me at the tables ***

@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 03:30:51 PM


What do you think if your opponent starts talking about a hand he may or may not have? Let’s say there were 2 spades on the board on the flop and your opponent check-called a PSB. The turn (a blank) went check-check, and the river (another blank) he checks, you bet something, and now he checkraises you. After he raises, he says “I do not have spades”. What do you think that typically means about an opponents hand?

@ Thu Aug 30, 2007 05:08:26 PM

This isn’t directly related to anyone else’s comment, but this article reminds me of a time when Daniel Negreanu got his opponent to talk. I think it was on High Stakes Poker, the cash game.

Daniel got check-raised. He said “Do you have a flush or something?”. His opponent (I don’t remember who it was) said “I have a straight flush”. The thing is, he DID have a straight flush!

I got the impression that this guy just screwed up, and that Daniel asked so matter-of-factly that the guy just got caught off guard.

You could see Daniel thinking – “Is he lying? Is he telling the truth but hoping I’ll think he’s lying? Or did he really screw up and tell the truth by accident?”

Daniel then folded, so he read it right. The other guy actually looked relieved – even though he won less money then if Daniel had called, at least he didn’t have to show his cards and let everyone at the table know that he really messed up! :)

I think it’s probably best to just stay quiet at the table – unless you are a very good actor, which most people are not…

@ Fri Aug 31, 2007 10:01:19 AM

The person you are talkin about is

Brad “Yukon” Booth.
He is a great Canadian player, and the one to make Phil Ivey fold KK on a dry flop.
lol that was funny………

@ Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:27:34 PM

Hey Ed,
Wouldn’t you know it, I ran into an exception two days ago. I got a free play in BB with 5d6d.

( I have 100+bb, key player has about 45-50bb)

Flop came 467 rainbow. Middle pair, straight draw. I bet the pot, about 3bb(after expected rake). 2nd postion player calls, others fold. The turn is a 5. I bet 2/3 pot. He calls again. ( I hate being out of position )

The river was a 9 (no flush involved)I should have made a small blocking bet but thought weakness would invite a check-raise. This guy was very loose pre-flop, gambled a lot and was in 2nd position.

So he says ” Whatta ya got, 2-pair?” Then he bets 18bb into a 21bb pot. I’m doing my mouth shut thing and still thinking. I flashed to this discussion combined with range of hands ( a lot) and thinking different combos of 8 mostly and he flashes a 2.

So now I’m thinking 28? really? But this guy loved to gamble. 23s seemed most likely. Anyway, I folded 2 pair (ouch). He showed 72 for top pair.

His being an exception aside, I knew of course this is the type who loves to bluff. I had only been at this table a half-hour, but knew bluff was definitely possible. I tried to come to a % to compare to pot odds –but couldn’t really come up with one :(

Here was my stumper. His type loves to bluff but also will play any 2 cards. He was loose postflop, not as much as pre, and hadn’t stayed in a hand with nothing or made any pure bluffs.

So any extra comments would be appreciated. I don’t mind getting bluffed. But was this a case where I should feel I got pushed around or one where I should feel , hey, if you never get bluffed you are calling too much?

I had bet a total of 10bb’s flop and turn combinged. Should I have bet smaller on the turn? Bigger? Should’ve checked the flop, huh? I thougt unraised blind betting with that flop players would be folding.

I thought 2nd pair and s.d. was strong, but thought he hit a draw which I thought he was on and i missed mine and I changed my commitment thoughts at the end.

@ Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:31:44 PM

Wow. I used the word “thought” excessively, especially for someone who “thought” wrong.

@ Tue Oct 30, 2007 08:41:25 AM

Above: Change the term check-raise to river-raise, please.

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>