Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 62: Steve O’Dwyer Explains the “Oreo Cookie Tell”
During the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Single-Day $50,000 High Roller, I overheard Steve O’Dwyer (who went on to top the 80-entry field to win his fifth major European Poker Tour title and $945,495) talking to Scott Seiver about an "Oreo Cookie Tell,". Intrigued, I had to find out more.
I’m sure the term has been bandied about for a while, but this was the first time I’d heard it and I absolutely loved it. For me it was an instant classic on par with Phil Laak’s coinage “felted” for losing one’s stack (rumor has it he’s the one who first employed that term). I understood immediately what O’Dwyer meant by an Oreo Cookie Tell, but for those who might not, I asked him to explain.
“I’ve only seen Rounders once ever, and that was like 10 years ago, but Mikey McD, he knew the guy had a strong hand if he took an Oreo cookie, broke it apart, and ate the cream,” said O’Dwyer.
“It’s like the lock-of-the-century tell — that’s an Oreo Cookie Tell. You know 100% that the guy either has it or doesn’t have it based off what the tell is.”
So to sum it up, an Oreo Cookie Tell is simply a 100% guaranteed tell. They’re incredibly rare to come by, but when you do you can take it to the bank.
So what sort of Oreo Cookie Tells should you be looking out for? It’s hard to say as they would vary from player to player, and even then determining exactly what they mean — are they showing strength? weakness? anything? — can prove a long and arduous process.
That said, they do turn up. Here are three general examples of Oreo Cookie Tells tells I’ve picked up either by playing or by observing players.
1. The Old Man Who Bets
At my local casino there are a lot of older players who frequent the small-stakes cash games and low buy-in tournaments. For the most part, these players sit tight, wait for hands, and pass the time playing a game they enjoy. They usually don’t give much in the way of action, but when it comes to consistency — especially in the tells they give off — no one is better.
For example, a few months back I wrote about a big pot-limit Omaha hand I played against one such player. Given my experience with this player, I knew 95% of the time his preflop raises represented aces, so when the flop came and he bet the pot, I was 100% sure he had flopped top set. I was proven correct, albeit at a cost.
Players of all ages have betting tells, but they seems to be more prevalent in those who don’t take the game too seriously. If you can pick up on them, test them, and determine exactly what they mean, well, that’s one Oreo Cookie Tell that can earn you a lot of money.
2. Taking a Sip
One of my more reliable tells over the years is when a player takes a drink after either placing a big bet or moving all in. In my experience, it’s usually an indication of a bluff, though I’ll admit it’s not always accurate (I’d say three-fourths of the time it is).
If I’m facing a big decision or thinking about making a marginal call, I’ll take a little extra time to see how my opponent reacts. If he’s calm, cool, and collected, red flags shoot up. If he breaks and heads for his drink, I’ll then try to determine what it means. Is he so relaxed and confident he doesn’t mind leaning back and taking a sip? Or is he so nervous he has to do something?
It varies from player to player, but I know exactly what it means with a select few, which is a powerful Oreo Cookie Tell to have.
3. Beware How You Put Out Chips
I’m not going to name names, but some of us tournament reporters have observed a certain player who exhibits a strong tell. Unfortunately, it’s not quite an Oreo Cookie Tell as I’ve yet to determine exactly what it means (hard to do when I’m not the one playing). Even so, I thought I’d share the tell just in case you observe similar behavior in a future opponent.
The tell — and again I don’t know what means what — concerns the way that he bets. At times this player will gingerly place out a bet and then use his index finger to tip the bet forward, essentially spreading it out so his competition could see the chips clearly and thus the amount of the bet. In other instances, the player carefully places the bet out but leaves the chips stacked neatly.
It’s possible that there’s no meaning attached to this small difference, but if there is, and you can possibly decipher it, that’s hugely valuable. The point is you should be on the lookout for these sorts of differences, studying them over time to learn just what they mean. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across an Oreo Cookie Tell, and in that case you’re bound to make some money.
Just do yourself and your fellow players a favor, and don’t share it when you pick up on an Oreo Cookie Tell. The last thing you want to happen is for the players to find out and quit playing with their Oreos.