Example 2: Little piles, little blinds
When the blinds for a tournament have reached, for example, the 600-unit stage, you will often observe a player building his chips into piles of exactly 600 units to make it easier to call the first bet. Then later when the blinds go up to 800 units this player will change the piles into stacks of 800-units value. This tells you something about the player. They are likely to be the type that calls much more often than they should, that is, in poker terminology, to be a’ calling station’. You cannot chase them out of the pot no matter how high your bet. It is best not to try stealing a pot or bluffing this type of player because the percentage chance is very high that you will be called. Conversely, if you have a reasonable hand you can try a bet because they are likely to call with a lesser hand.
Example 3: Don’t hide your chips
Often at the poker table you will hear the cry ‘Don’t hide your chips.’ This refers to the practice that some players have of hiding their high denomination chips behind several piles of smaller denomination chips. The explanation for this is often that the players hiding the chips are, both figuratively and actually, protecting their chips. This type of player tends to be ‘tight’ (that is, plays only very high value hands). So, if this type of player is in a pot with you be very careful. The percentage chance is high that the player will have a good hand.
Example 4: Big jar, small jars
As opposed to the type of player described in Example 1 who like to have small piles of high denomination chips, there are others who like to have big piles of small denomination chips. If the card room supervisor wants to change their small chips ‘up’ for those of bigger denomination, they want to keep the small value chips, ‘because it looks more’. They seem to think that large piles of chips are more intimidating and, to some extent, I agree.
The French psychologist, Piaget, did a series of experiments with young children where he asked them to compare the quantities of liquids in glass jars of various sizes. In one version of the experiment, two of the glass jars were tall and each contained the same fixed quantity of liquid. There were also two smaller glass jars into which Piaget poured the contents of one of the larger jars. Piaget asked the children whether the tall jar, which remained full, contained the same quantity of liquid as the two smaller jars. His findings were that, in the early stages of development, children considered it natural for the quantity of the liquid to vary with the shape and dimensions of the containers into which it was poured. In other words, they did not have a fully developed concept of the conservation of matter or quantity.
Piaget was interested in the developing thought processes of children, so it would be rash to compare the cognitive processing of supposedly sophisticated poker players to that of small children. Still, it is possible that there may be perceptual processes which might make players perceive tall stacks as containing more chips than several smaller stacks.
A tall stack of chips in front of a player does seem to look more daunting than several small stacks, even though the total value might be the same in both cases. This is particularly so if a player has the small stacks one behind the other. There is no real empirical evidence for this observation but it often seems that players tend to be less inclined to bet into an opponent with a tall intimidating stack or stacks of chips in front of him than they would be to bet into anyone who has stacked the chips into several small piles. Although this is tentative advice, I do think there is merit in stacking your chips high.
Example 5: Macho man
I have never observed this behaviour in women players hence the title. Sometimes a man, usually an inexperienced player, will call a bet, or more often a raise, in such a way that there will be a cracking or snapping made by the chips as he bangs them into the pot. This usually happens after he pauses for thought. This behaviour is almost always a sign that he has a medium-strength hand. If it happens before the flop, in a raised Hold ‘Em pot, this behaviour could indicate a fair hand such as KD, QS or AC, 10S or even 7D, 7C. Or, if it happens after a flop of say KS, 6H, 3H, it again would indicate a fair hand, perhaps KC, 9S or KC, 8S. This behaviour seems to me to be a non-verbal statement meaning ‘I have a good hand and I am going to make a stand’ (usually the player is mistaken in thinking he has a good hand). The player is also making a statement along the lines of ‘you are not going to get away with a bluff against me’.
If in the former situation you are the one who raised with a proper raising hand, such as QS, QH, then you have a big advantage because you are better able to put your opponent on a probable hand. If a higher card than your pair comes, you are in a much better position to gauge from his reaction whether it ‘hits’ one of his hole cards or not. Equally, in the latter case, if you hold say AH, KD (when the flop was K-6-3), then you can bet with impunity.
A characteristic of this macho-type of player is often that they do not like to be check-raised. They tend to take it as an insult or perhaps even as an affront to their manhood, and they almost always call if they have a medium-strength hand. In our opinion this is one of the few situations where it is advantageous to check-raise in a pot-limit or no-limit game.