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18 September 2014
By Aaron Todd
Like thousands of college students in the early 2000s, Zach Elwood got caught up in the poker boom. He mostly played with friends at first, then, while living in Albuquerque, started playing $10/$20 limit games at the casino.
He loved the famous scene in Rounders, where Mike McDermott (played by Matt Damon) reads all the players' hands in the judges' game. Elwood thought to himself: "Can you read people in this magical way?"
The answer, Elwood insists, is no. At least not in the way it is presented in poker's most celebrated movie. But he does think being aware of and looking for live tells can increase a player's win rate by 10 to 20 percent.
Even in his early days, Elwood kept a notebook full of notes on his friends to try to learn their tendencies. That research — along with hundreds of hours watching televised poker on YouTube — helped him pen two books: Reading Poker Tells, published in 2012, and Verbal Poker Tells, published earlier this summer.
He served as an advisor to Amir Lehavot in the run-up to the World Series of Poker's 2013 November Nine, studying footage of Lehavot's opponents leading up to the final table and, during final table play, sending any reads he might pick up from watching the delayed footage to Lehavot to review.
Neither Elwood nor Lehavot believed that paying extra attention to live tells would be a huge game changer (Lehavot ended up finishing third for $3.7 million), but with so much money on the line, even the smallest edge could end up having a big impact on the end result.
For his latest book, Elwood dissected hundreds of hours of play on YouTube with a focus on games that featured mostly recreational players.
"They're the most likely to have noticeable and common verbal patterns, and physical patterns too," says Elwood. "It's just much more useful to understand the common ways behavior shows up for more amateur players."
It doesn't hurt, either, that the vast majority of the people reading Elwood's books are going to be playing the bulk of their poker against recreational players, as well. And now, Elwood is making the results of much of that work available as part of a poker tells webinar to be held on Thursday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET.
The webinar consists of the same material he offered in a seminar at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino during the World Series of Poker, in conjunction with a strategy seminar hosted by Jonathan Little.
"It's a three-hour presentation on poker tells with questions and answers throughout," says Elwood. "I use a lot of poker footage so you see real poker hands. My goal is to show real examples of how these things show up in real games."
For an example of some of Elwood's teachings, watch a video he produced on Bill Perkins' behavior.
The cost for the webinar is $55, and people who pay for the webinar but end up missing it can send an e-mail with an explanation to receive a complete refund. Visit Elwood's site to register for the webinar, and if you decide to register, put "Casino City" in the "Who referred you?" field.
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