Tells in poker part III: pacifying gestures and model behaviors

In previous chapters we have mentioned the different types of tells we can encounter in a poker game, how to try to hide our tells and how we can train our body to control the gestures we make and avoid giving too much information to our opponents.

In this third part we are going to focus on the pacifying tells, their function and how you can take advantage of them during compromising situations.

Poker peacekeeper gestures: what they are and examples

Let's recap in case you haven't read the previous parts we have dedicated to poker tells: pacifying gestures are those gestures that, consciously or unconsciously, are made to enter a state of calm. The more obvious the pacifying tell is, the greater the level of stress suffered by the person making it. That is why a pacifying tell is a symptom of nervousness and worry for the person who performs it.

When faced with a pacifying tell, the first thing to do is to pay attention to the pattern of the gesture in order to discover some variations in the intensity and manner of the gesture. Very important here is the context, as the intensity of the tell will vary depending on where the game is being played. Is a casual game between friends the same as being in the WSOP final? Certainly not, and that makes a difference.

A very common example of a pacifying gesture is a neck rub to oneself. The neck is an extremely sensitive area, full of nerve endings whose stimulation can promote relaxation of the body. That is why, usually in a stressful situation, the player tends to put his hands on his neck.

There are many pacifying gestures: stroking one's hair or beard, scratching one's nose, lightly touching one's forehead, breathing intensely or at an extremely slow pace to take deep breaths, smoothing one's trousers or something as subtle as recurrently touching the threads of a fabric bracelet. These are familiar little havens for our senses that give the mind a much-needed sense of security in delicate moments, so be aware of this.

Special care must be taken when it comes to hugging. A hug to oneself may be a pacifying gesture, but a hug that leads to crossing one's arms on the table or across the chest denotes action and aggression. It is important to interpret the gesture well and to analyze the opponent's other gestures in order to put their way of expressing themselves into context.

You may notice that there are some inconsistencies in the way opponents express themselves. They may tend to try to mislead you by giving false information. It is also possible that they are aware that they have given you a glimpse of a tell with too much information and try to cover it up with a blatant counter-gesture.

This should make you wary. When in doubt, and with contradictory tells, you should always rely more on your first perception, as discussed in the previous chapters. They are more reliable because they are more likely to include genuine reactions that are impossible to disguise.

Some gestures and behaviors to look out for

There are certain pacifying gestures that are produced by sound rather than gestures. Something as innocuous as a sentence can be a pacifying gesture, especially if it comes from someone who doesn't tend to talk and suddenly talks to themselves or says comments out loud that add little or nothing to the game.

You also need to pay attention to the gestures that can occur under the table. A quiet torso but agitated legs can be a very important piece of information for a player. Put in context, this information can come in handy.

You should pay attention to the movement of the hands, the possible sweat stains on the clothes, the way the face moves, how your main opponent controls the gaze game... all of this will be critical to get a good feel for the player and define your strategy.

It is especially important to analyze the gestures of the players who speak after you. It is impossible to have data on all the players in a single pass, so make it easy for yourself and focus on those who play after you. Why?

As we discussed in part two, this is because those who speak before you are going to give away their own game. On the other hand, those who come after you will play on the basis of the information you give them, but you won't be able to take advantage of that information, so your best bet to try to sort them out is to get to them in the first few seconds after they receive the cards.

Keep in mind that the world of tells is not an exact science. Although they have been studied a lot and there is more and more data that corroborate the conclusions that can be reached with the analysis of tells, you should always analyze the situation in which they are occurring so you don't rush into anything.

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