As sunglasses, baseball hats, and deception in general have become more common at the tables, we need new tools to help us determine whether a tell is real or fake, and whether a player is paying attention to us or not. I find this problem particularly tough when my opponent is wearing glasses that shade their eyes. Whether they are wearing Blue Sharks, or dark sunglasses, it’s tough to tell whether a player is paying attention to you or just wearing the shades because they heard it was a good idea.
Even players who aren’t wearing shades, or even a hat, can sometimes be deceptive about who they are watching or where they are looking. We often assume that players who make obvious strategy mistakes are terrible in every aspect of the game, but some of them can be very perceptive and may be paying attention to what you are doing, watching you in peripheral vision or when they know you won’t be looking.
This is why it can be important to watch the whole table and pay attention to everything you do. A “bad player” may still be picking up information on your hand strength from your behaviors, and keeping the information that you give away to a minimum can save you money in the long run even if you aren’t obviously stressed and tend to be robotic in handling your chips and cards.
Who Is Watching?
There are also some tricks to getting people to reveal whether they are paying attention to you. My favorite is simply to check my watch. When you check the time, anyone who sees you do it also wants to know the time. It spreads like a yawn, but is much less obvious so most people don’t know about it. If I check my watch in an inconspicuous way, then only people who are paying attention to me while I do it will feel the need to know the time.
It’s a simple formula, and it works with other things too. I check my watch, and within ten or fifteen seconds, I see a few players at the table checking the time themselves. Don’t make it obvious or everyone will want to know the time and you won’t learn anything, just do it casually and pay attention to the behavior of players around you.
There are other things that work on the same principle. You are simply reminding people that there is something they don’t know. The score of the game on television works too. Just take off your shades, move your eyes up the television, and allow your eyes to get slightly bigger, as if something interesting has happened. Someone will suddenly look to the television to check out whatever happened, and you’ll know that they are paying attention to you.
This concept also works great with tournament clocks, cute cocktail waitresses, and the stack size of the big stack at the table. In fact, it can work with nothing at all. If I can’t find an easy target for my attention, I just take off my Blue Sharks, focus on something most players at my table won’t be looking at, and look interested for a second. Anyone watching me carefully will feel a compulsion to see what I’m so interested in, and when they turn to look, they give themselves away.
I’m happily married these days, so it’s of no consequence to me, but this technique also works in singles bars and at parties. If you think someone might be watching you from across the room, check to see if they look where you look or check the time when you do. If you can’t manage to catch them with their attention following yours, then it’s probably just wishful thinking.
Using the Information
Once you find out that a player is paying attention to you, it gives you a few pieces of very valuable information. When someone is paying attention to your behavior, it usually means that they see you as either a threat or a target. It shouldn’t be tough to figure out which option applies and why. If you just showed down a weak hand, they probably see you as a target. If you are a big stack, they may see you as a threat.
Once you know that they are paying attention and why, you can usually figure out how to handle them. If someone sees me as a threat, I tend to be very aggressive against them. If they are aggressive right back at me then I know they usually have a strong hand and aren’t afraid. If I know someone sees me as a target, I give them enough rope to hang themselves, and they often do.
Every situation is different, and there are people who are tough to figure out, but even with those tougher players it helps to know that you are being watched. Against players wearing shades, these techniques are definitely the best way to tell if someone is watching you, and they are something to look out for in your opponents as well. As far as I know, very few people know about this little trick, but with the publication of this article it is behavior you will start to see in players who are paying attention.
As with almost any technique that involves reading your opponents, you’ll find that wearing Blue Shark Optics will make it easier.