Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blogger Tournament Nirvana, and Eye Tells

Congratulations to LJ and to Rake Feeder for chopping up the latest Skill Series tournament, this week in Omaha 8 or Better, after Rake Feeder overcame a more than 4-to-1 chip deficit when down to just three players remaining. As I have said about most of the Skill Series tournaments so far, having played in the O8 game last night I will say without hesitation that winning this thing is quite an impressive feat. I was going to write a whole post all about the play last night, but in the end let me just say that never have I seen so many players calling raises -- and even raising themselves -- in O8 with hands like 668J, 7799, and 4567, the exact worst kinds of hands in this game. I got burned by players doing this all night to end with me busting in the middle of the pack -- I shouldn't even have lasted that long but I got lucky a few times when down to a short stack -- but I will say again, somehow making it through this minefield is really something to be proud of in my view. And I will say this -- the crowds in the Skill Series games have been truly awesome. I have never ever been one to count the people in the tournaments we play, and I don't evaluate myself or anyone else or their tournaments by how many people show up in absolute numbers. But, I am thrilled beyond my wildest expectations that we are getting 40-50 players every Tuesday night to come out and play together as a group in some non-holdem games. And part of me really enjoys seeing everyone playing these games ways. Some of those people are actually winning doing it, and others are lasting far and at least making it hard for everyone else to put them on hands. I guess all I'm trying to say is that I could not be happier with how many people are interested in playing something other than holdem on full tilt every Tuesday night, and I already really look forward to the Skill Series as one of my favorite times with my fake internet friends (and haters) each week.

As an aside, this has happened kinda quietly from my perspective, but has anyone noticed how right now seems to me to be the height of blogger private tournaments? Think about this for a minute. There is no BBT going to really create an "artficial", temporary incentive for people to play, and yet just look at the regular crowds we are seeing in what is now 5+ nights a week of blonkaments. I am sure things like the BBT, the big overlay Smokkee has secured for his weekly Tuesday night Bodog tournament and some other interesting developments like knockouts and changes to some non-holdem games all the time have all contributed, but just look at what we are doing together every week now. I've been getting more than 30 people for the MATH on most Mondays. The Skill Series on Tuesday has been drawing close to 50 people a week to play games that many people (clearly) don't even have the first clue how to play. Smokkee has reported a record turnout for the bodonkey now several weeks running, including 37 players last night. On Bodog, easily the worst poker client ever created! That seems crazy to me. Of course on Wednesdays you have the Mookie and his usual crowd of 60-80 people, and again I'm talking without the BBT. The Thursday Riverchasers tournament, which I remember started off as just mostly RC guys and a few friends from the Boathouse, has now become the place to be online on Thursday nights, also bringing in between 50-80 players or more on most nights it runs. And on Fridays of course there is the donkament, which also continues to grow and seems to be pulling in a good 25 or so players every week on a night when most people cooler than me are out partying it up. Then of course there is the monthly Big Game and HORSE deep stack event on Sunday evenings, another hard night to play for many people, and those too tend to draw 20 or more even with no BBT involved, even with the Big Game's lofty $75 pricetag.

Then I think back to just a year ago. I had just started up the Hoy and was getting maybe 15 or so players every week to come out on pokerstars. The WWdN, also on stars, was well beyond its heyday a few years back when I used to play this thing with 120 of my closest friends, and was in fact heading for its demise. The Mookie was there and already doing well, but was probably averaging more like 40 or so players than the nearly twice that we seem to get most Wednesday nights these days. There was no Thursday tournament, there was no bodog tournament and there were really no weekend tournaments to speak of -- no donkament yet, not really a Big Game and that was it. The private blogger tournament as an institution was maybe not dying, but it was past its prime that is for sure. Now just one year later, the blonkaments that existed then have nearly doubled on average, and a bunch of new ones have arisen as well that are every bit as big and as fun and as much looked-forward-to every week as the older ones, even with Wil and his WWdN that really started it all falling by the wayside. And all this proliferation has happened despite what a very small minority of bloggers have complained about as far as people now using the blonkaments as a springboard to post negative comments about people's plays every day in their blogs, insulting people, whatever. Personally, I will always chuckle at the attempts to curb free speech from some people who complain about what others write in their own personal blogs and who claim themselves to be such big proponents of blog-what-you-want, but I guess it is really noteworthy to me and very obvious just now with the bodonkey growing and the Skill Series becoming what it is so quickly, just now much everyone is in to the private tournaments, really more so at this very moment that at any time before. I am thrilled about that and look forward to what the future will bring on that front.

So yeah tonight is the Mookie, 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always for Mookie's events is "vegas1". My prop bet with Mook is still in effect -- three months of Mookie buyins for the winner from the non-winner if either one of us wins the tournament during 2008 -- although with our dual final table performances last week it is probably not likely to happen again for me at least anytime soon. That said, I have been playing awesome in the blonkaments recently, on one of my best stretches since I started playing these things a few years ago in fact, so I guess you never know. Historically I have not gotten the cards or the luck needed to last in the Mookie in particular, but like I said I did final table it last week so who knows what will happen. And be sure to tune in once again to Buddydank Radio, where I understand Don and crew will be taking over once again in what is sure to be another top notch show for the radio program that is at its absolute best ever right now, right along with the blonkaments in general these days.

Before I go today, I wanted to share something I read in my latest poker book that I've just completed this week. The book was called Beyond Tells, by James McKenna, and let me start by saying this book was almost unreadably bad. I hate to say that about any poker book, but when your editing is as bad as this book's was, you really deserve it. And I'm not just talking about your normal poker book fare bad editing -- the Super/System and Phil Hellmuth style writing with the exlamation points and the caps and the bold everywhere. I mean, this book had entire passages -- entire pages even -- totally duplicated from other parts in the book. There would be the same two paragraphs, and I do mean word for word identical, just a page apart from one another. It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder if there even was an editor for this book, because believe me when I say that anybody who actually sat down and read through the book from front to back like I just did would have picked up on this stuff immediately. So that was very, very frustrating, especially since it probably happened literally ten times in the book. But more than that, the substance to this book was just about as flimsy as the editing. It was probably a good 300 pages or so, and yet I don't think there were more than 2 or 3 points in the entire book that are even worth considering let alone worth discussing out loud or here in the blog. It was probably literally the single worst and most worthless poker book I've ever read, and believe me I have read them all.

The one most interesting point that I did take out of Beyond Tells was something that the author says about a tell you can get from most players' eye movements. Basically, McKenna makes the following points:

1. When a player's eyes move up to the right, they are visually constructing.
2. When a player's eyes move up to the left, they are visually remembering.
3. When a player's eyes move down to the right, they are dealing with internal feelings.
4. When a player's eyes move down to the left, they are having an internal conversation.

Now, of course, the subject of what is being constructed, remembered, or discussed or felt internally is still up in the air so it's not like eye movements alone can tell you whether to call or bluff someone during a live poker session, but in general I find this whole line of argument to be very interesting. Basically, all things equal, the author argues that if someone bets the river out of nowhere for example, and then you see their eyes unconsciously move up and to the right while they place this bet, then the chances are that they are bluffing because they are trying to construct an image in their heads of the cards they wish they had and or the hand they wish they had just made. Similarly, the author argues, if someone takes their time before making a call and their eyes are moving down to the left during this time, the chances are they have a so-so drawing hand or some sort of mediocre holding and are genuinely trying to decide whether to call or fold here, as opposed to actually being very strong and just fake-pausing to get you to show some more strength on later streets. If a guy's eyes move up and to the left while he bets out strongly on the flop after raising preflop, argues McKenna, then it is likely that he is accessing his memory banks of how he got you to call his nuts in an earlier situation or perhaps an earlier session. And so on and so forth.

So my question to you all is, is there anything to this eye movement business? The first time I read this, it seemed like a bunch of hooey to me. What do you all think about this? Are eye movements specifically something that you pay attention to when you are playing live poker?

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Blogger Riggstad said...

I agree with your assesment of the blogger tournaments Hoy... I also think that it creates more bloggers. Since Riverchasers joined there are at least 7 new bloggers from that group alone.. that brings not only new (wannabe)writers but all of their friends as well... getting in on the BBT was just the beginnig. Realizing how much fun was had has kept them here... even without the added incentives of the BBT...

As far as the eye movements... I have played live for a very long time, as others and studied this stuff. I have the advantage of having a relative who is an interogator for the ATF... what he told me years ago about all of this stuff is the fact that people act differently, and "sampling" them is a must. The basis holds true, but being left handed might alter the exact information you gain... meaning that looking down and to the left may mean the exact opposite. Take that for what's its worth, but I certainly think there is something to it.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Riggstad said...

let me also add that it is something I use infrequently. with the players today, they are more likely to give off other tells easier to spot, so going to someones eye movement is last on the list, unless it is so obvious that a blind person could detect it

11:31 PM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

In live poker, I get a huge amount of information from eye movement or lack there of. Now granted, I'm a much lower stakes guy than most and my competition is mostly amatures, but I can tell you there is a lot to this eye stuff.

For me, the biggest keys to eyes are their initial movements after seeing cards. The old tell about looking at their chips works really well for most people. Staring at a board is almost always a sign of a miss and studying the board by looking up and down it usually means draw.

Keep in mind, you want to prove it works for each person first. Some people just stare blankly cause they are tired.

I remember one hand I played I took the pot away because I noticed the player that did the continuation bet had not actually looked at the flop, but first looked to their chips, bet and then looked at the flop. Once she looked at the flop, her eyes just scream "Good lord! What did I just do!" I raised it again and took it down.

A lot of people will flare their eyes with surprise if they hit the flop. Other people start to look around when they hit...they become very engaged.

As with all tells, make sure you prove their relevence and reliablity.

11:35 PM  
Blogger lj said...

great points by ohcaptain. a guy who sat next to me at a caesar's tournament over blogger w/e even took me aside and told me that i was giving off that tell. i stared at the board when it missed me -- although granted i was holding KK on a JJx flop -- but looked away when he correctly read that i'd flopped a set. he said he wasn't sure for awhile b/c he thought i might have just been squinting to read the board (and he finished third, so i think he had a good idea of what he was doing). i've since noticed other people doing this, and it can be useful!

not as sure about eye movements, but i had a roommate who worked at sanford bernstein, and they had to go through sales training where they learned what eye movements meant so they could read people better.

as for "skill" series chop, thanks, but it was a lotta luck and not much skill. i think it's much harder to make it through the field as a good player than a bad player. totally fun, though!

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And part of me really enjoys seeing everyone playing these games ways. PRICELESS.

I think eye movement tells are overrated.

By far the biggest tells live are with the mouth. Hiding the mouth, biting ones lips, smirks, grimaces, clinching teeth, jaw tension etc. are all easy give aways.

Also the forehead is huge for tells and the main reason players started wearing hats back in the per-advertising days. Many forms of non-verbal come straight from the eyebrows and foreheads.

12:40 AM  
Blogger $mokkee said...

Bodog is easily the most kickenest ass client in the online poker world.

not because of it's clean, polished interface. because of all the idiots on the other side of it who have no clue.


1:33 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

The eye movement stuff is old hat, but can be useful at times. I find it's more helpful if you're talking to the player. "Flop a set?" and then watch the eyes. But as rigg said, it can switch if your opponent is left-handed. Regardless, why do you think people started wearing shades?

And like others have said, there are better tells in poker. Even beginners know that the eyes can give something away, even if they don't know what, so most people just stare in one direction.

The greatest tell is still a sudden change in behaviour.

2:11 AM  
Blogger AllanDuke said...

If you want to REALLY learn what eye movements are about... read Derren Brown's book "Tricks Of The Mind." It might only be available on - not (he's British, not American).

Derren Brown is a mentalist/hypnotist/magician. He does more than card tricks though. The only POKER relevant trick he's ever done is edited here:

One of his sections on neruo-linguistic programming is also a very good read (and relevant).

But his book details quite a bit about eye movements. He is an expert cold reader. I'll summarize what he says about eye movements:

People who lie do not necessarily look up and to the corner. Rather, looking around is different for EVERY person. Johnny might look up and to the right when he lies, but Jennifer looks down and to the left. Eye movements is a variable COMPLETELY DEPENDANT on the actual individual. In order to actually use eye movements as a reliable tell, you must first establish a baseline for the actual individual making the eye movement. This is best accomplished through conversation - either during the hand or before the session. If you play against your friends, you should definitely pay attention to where they look when they lie, and when they tell you the truth. There are some great examples of Derren Brown utilizing this method during a cold read here:

People who tell the truth do not look you in the eye. People look you in the eye when they are LYING. They look you in the eye to compensate for their lie. So basically in poker, if someone is starring at you in the eye, it is very likely to be a bluff.

2:58 AM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...

First off what that guy said in his eye movement book is not completely right. Read "I can read you like a book"

It will open your mind to the world around you unlike any other book u've read. It was written by an FBI interrogator so the dude knows what he's talking about.

Now medically here is where the guy is partially right. Your occipital lobe (visual memory storage) is located in the back of your head which is why u look up when u are retrieving visual information. How ever the the only thing in human nature that is ABSOLUTELY true to every human being is that emotional responses or thoughts cause the eyes to drift down and to the right. There is not a single human being on the planet that will deviate from this. However every other thing about the eyes is circumstantial.

The key to reading the eyes is first base lining the person. You need to figure out if they are a hard right or a hard left person. Meaning the person's eyes either go right then left (hard left) or left then right (hard right). Ask a questions like what does ur kitchen look like at home and watch the eyes. A question like that is designed to see where there eyes move in visually recalling something from the brain that they've seen before.

Then ask them to make up a story and you find there creative center You need to ask question knowing what you are looking for. You can start figure out where they move and pattern's will emerge from it. Once you get the pattern down then any time they deviate you know something is up.

But there is def a science to reading people and you can decipher it if you know what to look for and how to use it.

9:45 AM  

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