As a poker player your title could just as appropriately be “information analyst”. Besides the information about your hand and the plays already made, you need to read and analyze the body language of the other players.
Only 7% of our communication occurs through spoken language itself; the other 93% is made up of inflections within the words and non-verbal clues.
Let’s start at the top with the eyes, the window to the soul, as the old saying goes. Does another player take a long look, or merely glance at his hand? A good hand requires careful study to calculate the best use; a bad hand will not.
Kinesics, or the science of body language, has demonstrated that the pupils of a poker player’s eyes who is holding a good hand will dilate slightly; this is why most of the professionals wear sunglasses. It’s an involuntary response that can be “read” by other Texas holdem players.
Notice the breathing rate of your opponent; if holding a good hand it’s likely to accelerate. People also have habits they fall into when under stress. Some may lick their lips; others may stroke their chin. Especially with amateur players it is unlikely that they’re aware of this response. After a hand or two though, you certainly should be.
Pay close attention to the hands holding the cards. Do the fingers tremble slightly? If so that person is likely to hold either a very good hand or a very bad hand. Now look back and check the breathing. Has it speeded up? If so, the odds are that your opponent has a very strong hand.
You, of course, do not want to give away any of these clues. However, you can use body language to bluff, as indeed many professionals do. Keep your body language bluffs subtle; anything over the top simply advertises that you’re bluffing, to an experienced opponent.
And don’t get distracted. Men, do you think there’s a reason that poker-playing women wear those low – cut tops? Of course there is! If you’re serious about your poker playing, you’ll concentrate on her eyes, her facial expressions, and her hands, just as with any other player. Ignore the cleavage!
Don’t forget what your opponents do. Did he just make a show of his bet by splashing his chips? Did she seem to smile and nod to herself? Odds are those players are bluffing. They’re putting on a show of bravado, when in fact it’s likely they’re holding a weak hand.
Does the person on the other side of the table seem distracted? He’s likely to be trying to tempt you into betting higher because he has a strong hand. Don’t be fooled. Evaluate your hand and any bluffing you might want to do, but consider checking or folding to save yourself money.
If the opposite happens, and the player focuses on you with laser-like intensity, this is also likely to be a bluff. He probably has a weak hand, but wants to intimidate you out of the betting so that he can win the pot: but beware the double bluff!
Study your opponents carefully and notice both innate and carefully rehearsed body language. Make mental notes. When it’s time for the final hand, you can use that knowledge to your advantage, along with your own body language tricks, to secure a win at the table.