The "Language" of Poker Bets
We humans are very perceptive creatures. We are able to communicate in many different ways with one another. By saying something, by saying nothing, by shrugging our shoulders, by winking, delaying, etc. These are all forms of communicating.
Do you realize that when you place a poker bet you are actually communicating something to the other players? Understanding what you are communicating with your betting, and understanding what the other players are communicating with their bets is one of the cornerstones of good poker play.
By mastering this form of poker communications, you will find yourself becoming a truly formidable poker player. If you ignore this betting language, you will consistently lose - it's as simple as that.
When a player calls, it often just means they're limping to see the next card with the hope of improving their hand. When a player checks, it typically means they're not too happy with their current hand, and would like to see another card before making any move. Yes, they could be trapping, but that's the exception, not the rule.
When a player bets, they're communicating that they like their hand and they want some action, so they're risking more chips in order to take control of the action or just take the pot. Whether this communications is "real" or not depends - upon what style of player they are: tight, solid, loose, maniac, etc. and how this player communicates.
If you've been paying attention (like you should be), you'll have a pretty good idea of how "honest" this player typically communicates (bets/plays). Aggressive players who play a lot of hands and raise a lot to drive people out of pots can be generally considered "dishonest" and can't be trusted to communicate (bet) honestly.
Tight/solid players are relatively honest, usually betting more in accordance with the true strength of their hand, making them easier to read most of the time. Learn to read these different player's betting signals and you'll be amazed at how much your game improves.
Decide how "honest" or "dishonest" you want your betting signals to be that the other players are reading from you. Try mixing these signals up a bit so the other players can't quite tell what to expect from you and it'll help by causing them to make more mistakes against you, resulting in bigger winnings.
Now, let's have a look at an example situation. Let's say you're in a game with 9 people at the table, and on the button, so you'll get to act last and have the most information to work with. Your starting hand is good, but not great, such as a 67 spades-suited connector. The action comes around and half of the players have dropped out, and several players have limped in. You go ahead and limp in as well, wanting to see the flop like everyone else. The flop comes: 4s, Jc, 9d - not exactly what you'd hoped for. The first three players check. The 4th player throws out a bet of 3 times the big blind. So, where are we?
Ignoring your hand for just a moment (since we're talking about betting and communicating - right?), everyone except the 4th player communicated that they didn't really like the flop, then the 4th player placed a decent bet. Is he trying to steal the pot or does he now have a pair of Jacks? Since we've been watching these players' style of play all along, and we quickly realize that this is a fairly tight player, we would correctly conclude that this basically "honest", tight player has hit that pair of Jacks.
On the other hand, if the 4th player had instead been playing loose with lots of bets and raises, stealing many pots and pushing people around quite a bit, then they can't be trusted since they're fundamentally "dishonest" with their betting communications patterns.
See how this works? Now, about your hand. You need to fold either way here, since the odds of you making a flush or straight aren't good, and there's an overpair of Jacks that's possible and likely based upon what's being communicated (and someone could also be trapping that checked, too).
So, what are you communicating with your bets? Are you even thinking about that? Before you fire out a bet, you need to consider what "message" you want to send the other players, and make sure your intended message gets through, in order to affect the other players' actions and control the outcomes more often.
What are the others communicating to you with their bets? What kind of "communicator" are they? Honest or dishonest? Consistent or variable? How much do you believe what they're telling you? Are you really listening, or just looking at your own hand too much?
So, Betting Is Communicating. Become truly fluent in this "poker language" and you'll be amazed at how much it boosts your winnings.
Rick Braddy is an avid writer, Texas Holdem player and professional software developer and marketer for over 25 years. His websites and Texas Holdem poker software specialize in helping people become better Texas Holdem poker players. If you're a poker player, be sure to visit his Texas Holdem website today and learn how you can play better Texas Holdem, too.