Reverse Reverse Tell

reverse poker tells

“Why such a small raise,” I asked.  The villain, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Lee,” had open-raised to 3 big blinds.  At this private cash game, opening raises tend to be in the range of 5-8 BBs.

“Are you just trying to induce a re-raise with some kind of monster hand?”

The action had folded around to me, on the button.  My stack is just over 50 BBs, and Lee has me well covered.  In the first hour or so of this game, everything went wrong for me (good hands that made it to 2nd best, failed bluffs, missed draws, the usual running bad stuff) and now I’m stuck 2.5 buy-ins and trying to climb out of it.  I’ve been unusually active and more talkative during hands than normal.

As I’m decided what to do, Lee responds to my question with a question of his own:  “Why are you giving a speech?”

A poker tell is a change in behavior or demeanor or involuntary physical reaction that provides insight into that player’s hand strength.  In the world of poker tells, fluid speech is a very reliable tell that someone has a very strong hand.  Without confidence that your hand is best, it’s hard to relax enough to try to psych out your opponent.  Bluffers, being extra careful not to give any tells, mostly concentrate on stillness and keeping quiet.  Mum poker.

I know this, and Lee’s question about why I’m giving a speech suggests that he knows it too, so I tell Lee “it’s because I have pocket aces.”

A reverse tell is deliberately but subtly acting in the opposite manner, like giving a speech that looks like an attempt to goad an opponent into calling when you are actually on a bluff, when the opponent is astute enough to know that most speeches are involuntary efforts to keep a customer.

Lee knows that I just gave a short speech, just by asking him why his initial raise was so small and whether that was, in effect, a reverse bet-sizing tell.

I now know that Lee is aware of the most common meaning of my speech.

After disclosing that I have pocket aces, I raise to 12.5 BBs.  If I’m going to tell Lee that I have pocket aces, I should bet consistent with that story.  Besides, I actually have pocket aces!  I got caught making a short speech, so hiding in plain sight seems like the best option.  We call that a reverse reverse tell.

I know that he knows that I know that he knows… Lee hates being bluffed, and at least at the poker table his first instinct is frequently to assume his opponents are trying to deceive him.  With a reverse reverse tell, we deceive by simply telling the truth.

Lee calls, and apparently catches a piece of the flop (which I don’t recall the exact details).  I divide my stack into thirds, and bet 1/3 of the remainder on the flop.  Lee calls again, while commenting that he knows what is coming on the turn.  He later said the turn card gave him a gutshot straight draw and a flush draw to go along with his middling pair, and he calls my all-in turn bet too.

The river card is a blank giving me a full double up.  Maybe my fortunes are reversing.


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