A Reliable Tell - By: John Anhalt
When playing live there are some tells that are nearly
always reliable. Most have to have a pattern established
before categorizing them as reliable, but there are some
very reliable tells that remain amazingly consistent. The
most reliable live tell I've found is the following. When
you are faced with a big decision (usually calling an all-in
decision) if you ask your opponent, "If I fold will you
show?" and they say, "Yes or sure" then you can safely muck
your hand because you're beat.
After years of live experience I've found this simple question to save me thousands of dollars. Why is this so reliable? Most opponents you face in live games don't like to show bluffs. Nearly all of your opponents want a friendly game and they like showing off big hands. So by just asking you give them permission to flash their monster hand to you. In return you can smile and say, "Very nice hand - you played that really well" and thank them silently to yourself for saving you so much money.
Now that's not to say there aren't exceptions to this tell. If you are against a very aggressive opponent they may tell you yes, but only because they want to show you how they outplayed you to try and tilt you. Against this opponent you may need to throw in the comment that you'll also fold and show your hand if they show you theirs. If they don't agree to do so, then you have a tough decision on your hands, but it leans slightly more to the fact that you may have the best hand.
Against aggressive AND tricky opponents, this won't be a very reliable tell. Yet if they do answer that they'll show, then it should lean you more towards a fold, but you'll still have a difficult decision. However against most opponents, who will be slightly more passive and at the table to have fun, you can save yourself a lot by just asking a simple question.