Live tells: 2016 EPT Barcelona

The final hand of the recent EPT Barcelona Main Event had it all, including some fascinating behaviour from the winner which Zach Elwood dissects

This is the last hand in the recent EPT Barcelona Main Event. Blinds are 300K/ 600K with a 100K ante. Sebastian Malec limps with A♥-3♥ on the button. Uri Reichenstein checks the big blind with T♥ -9♣.

The flop is Q♥-J♠-6♥. Reichenstein bets 800K and Malec raises to 3m. Reichenstein calls.

Throughout this hand, and in some previous hands, Malec has been standing up periodically and rocking back and forth. He had been saying that he had to go to the bathroom.

The turn is the 8♥ giving Reichenstein a straight and Malec the flush. Reichenstein checks and Malec bets 5m. As Reichenstein calls, Malec talks quite a bit. One thing he says is, ‘Just fold and I can go to the bathroom.’ Another thing he says is, ‘You don’t have any strong hands when you just lead like… I’m pretty sure you’re going to just fold, so…’

Reichenstein calls. The river is the 8♦. Reichenstein checks and Malec says ‘All-in’ after a couple of seconds and covers Reichenstein’s remaining stack of 17.5m.

As Reichenstein thinks, Malec says, ‘I think I cover, right? So you call and it’s all over, baby. Like Scotty Nguyen, eh?’ At this point, Malec is standing up and gesturing very loosely.

Reichenstein says, ‘It’s so sick you’re telling the truth and my hand is insanely strong.’

Malec: ‘I mean, you don’t have any strong hands. How could you have a strong hand, like, you lead, like, never a strong hand, never a strong hand. So, just fold and I can go to the bathroom.’

Reichenstein: ‘It’s like, I have a hand that’s impossible to fold. But everything you say just makes it slightly possible.’

Malec: ‘I mean, like, I just want to go pee-pee. I really want to pee, so… I’m just convinced, like, like… I don’t know. I guess you could have like nine-ten or something.’

Reichenstein: ‘What about nine-ten? Is nine-ten good?’

Malec: ‘It’s a straight. But like, I have Queens in my range. Jacks. Sixes. You don’t have those hands in yourrange.’

Reichenstein: ‘I don’t think you have any of those hands. I think you might have a flush, though.’

Malec: ‘Yeah, I think I have, like, maybe I have Sixes, but I raise Sixes, right, so? Yeah… It’s your choice, man.’

Reichenstein: ‘It’s so sick. Nobody ever talks like you without having the hand. It’s so sick.’

At this point, Malec walks away from the table and interacts with people on the rail. He talks about how he’s going to be the winner, and says, ‘EPTchampionoverhere.’

Reichenstein ends up making the call. We could see that he read many of Malec’s behaviours as strong- seeming, but in his defence Malec had acted loose and unusual often in the game. He was often standing up and moving around and starting conversations. (There was even a hand where Malec bet trips on the river and remained calm and quiet for quite a while, which may have thrown off Reichenstein’s read.) At the same time, in my quick review of the hour before this hand, I saw nothing resembling the behavioural looseness Malec had in this hand.

Let’s look at some of the more pertinent behaviours:

1) Talkativeness after making a big bet

It’s the rare player who can be so loquacious after betting. Loose, relaxed talking from someone who’s made a big bet (i.e. the ‘speech’) will usually represent relaxation. This is especially true the more amateur the player is, as most amateur players aren’t comfortable talking so much when bluffing. (This is probably less true for Malec than an average player, as he had apparently done some talking in earlier hands.)

2) Talking about the play

As I wrote in Verbal Poker Tells, even if a player is willing to talk when bluffing, that talking will usually consist of rather neutral, non- confrontational speech. When a player is willing to talk about the strategy of the hand and the ranges of hands possible, it is a reliable tell that that player is relaxed.

3) Goading

Goading language like ‘Just fold and I can go to the bathroom’ is unlikely to be said by a bluffer. Even a bluffer who wants to talk will usually not choose such confrontational language that might accidentally result in a ‘spite-call.’

4) Misdirections to explain strong-hand behaviour

The most interesting part of their verbal interaction is when Reichenstein says, ‘I have a hand that’s impossible to fold. But everything you say just makes it slightly possible.’ At this accusation that he (Malec) is acting in a way that screams strength, Malec essentially makes excuses for his behaviour. If Malec were bluffing, he would have no incentive to lead Reichenstein away from the idea that he had a strong hand. I think this is the most pertinent and powerful part of the verbal interaction.

5) Standing up and walking around

In my database, I have notes on several years’ worth of WSOP footage, and I did an analysis of all the postflop, post-bet situations where the bettors stood up. (The compilation video is on my YouTube channel: In almost every case of post-bet standing, the bettor was strong. In this specific hand, the standing wasn’t really a factor, as Malec was often standing in many hands.ButthenMalecwalksoffand interacts with the rail, which similarly seems like clearly relaxed behaviour.

All of these behaviours combined would make me very confident Malec was relaxed and had at least a flush. If I were Reichenstein, I would have to have seen Malec exhibit a lot of stereotypical strong-hand behaviour when bluffing to ever get me to want to call this bet. (And in Reichenstein’s defence, perhaps he’d seen Malec do that earlier – I confess I haven’t watched all the footage.)

This article was taken from an original post by Zach Elwood on TwoPlusTwo’s Poker Tells/ Behaviour forum. Zach Elwood is the author of the fantastic books Reading Poker Tells and Verbal Poker Tells, and the creator of an online poker tells video series

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