(This article is part of a series. Each article discusses a specific poker behavior and features a short sample clip from Zachary Elwood’s Reading Poker Tells Video series.)
In the picture above, you can see a good example of horizontally stretched-out lips from a player with a strong hand. This facial expression communicates sadness or sympathy. It’s the kind of facial expression you might wear if a friend told you that he was just eliminated on the bubble of a big tournament. It communicates the idea, “That’s too bad.”
When a player making a significant bet has this type of stretched-out lips expression, it will usually indicate relaxation and a strong hand.
Below is a video showing a couple of hands with bettors showing this behavior. The second hand shows a very quick, short-lived example of the behavior, but it’s slowed down afterwards for a better look.
This pattern isn’t very surprising. As Mike Caro wrote years ago, behavior that conveys weakness will usually indicate strength. Bluffers will generally want to keep a stoic, normal expression when betting. Meanwhile players betting strong hands are more physically loose; they can also have a motivation to seem uncertain or worried when betting.
The most obvious examples of this behavior will come from very inexperienced players. The more experienced an opponent is, the more subtle the behavior may become.
The one major caveat with this behavior is that some players have a lot of facial movement in general. Ideally, you’d want to watch a player for a bit to get a sense of his or her general baseline. This pattern will be most reliable for somewhat inexperienced players who usually try to keep a fairly stoic poker face.
Also remember that this pattern is mainly reliable for bettors. It’s still fairly reliable for waiting-to-act players, but less so because waiting-to-act players will sometimes show their genuine disappointment if they know they’re going to be folding.
Reading Poker Tells Video Series: This has been an article featuring information and a video sample from Zachary Elwood’s poker tells series. You can sign up for a free 3-part email course on the front page of this site: www.readingpokertells.video. Signing up for the email course also gets you a 15% discount off of any of the video series packages.