Many holdem players do things automatically without thinking. As a result they develop patterned movements that become tells. Tells are things that give away your hand to good players. Part of my holdem coaching is to identify these types of actions made by the players I coach. I help them stop making automatic moves themselves and how to recognize and interpret them in their competition.
Recognizing these automatic moves in other players will improve your play and therefore increase your earnings. John Scarne made a statement about this in his book, Scarne on Cards. Basically he said to always do everything the same way or good players will know what you are doing. And, he also added not to say anything during a hand. Players will also figure out what you are doing by what you say.
One tell that happens pre-flop is players get their chips ready to play before it is their turn. They also lay down their cards when they are going to play, or they keep them in their hand if they are going to muck them. Some players even hold them in a position to toss them until it is their turn. If they are going to raise, they will get out more than the minimum bet from their stack. Any of these things can give you information on what to do from early through middle position. You may see that it is a good idea to muck a hand that you might have played.
You might want to muck from early position if a player counts out a raise from his stack. It is even more important to think about folding if the player after him counts out the same amount or more chips. When this happens, you are usually up against AK or higher by two or more players. AQ fitted or KQ or smaller hands even suited in your hand is a serious underdog. Middle pairs like 10's 9's or 8's are usually beat.
The following is probably the most important advice in holdem:
It is important to note here that the best hands pre-flop wins the pots 80 percent of the time when they are played right and from the right position. The time to start figuring hand strength in relationship to the other player's hands is pre-flop not on the river. You do this by knowing your hand's strength in relationship to the number of players in the hand. You can learn this from a hand strength chart. Do not ever invest money in losing hands pre-flop. Calling or betting to the river with a bad hand and trying to bluff on the river is a bad play. Good players either will not be there or they will take your money because they know they have you beat.
Pre-flop is also the time to watch the players that play rags because they are connected or suited. They will also make moves that can be read. I was watching what I call the Rich Kid TV poker a while back. I noticed one of the younger players who usually called with any connected, any suited or any pair would hesitate for 15 or more seconds depending how bad his hand was. Fifteen seconds usually mean hands like 10-4 fitted. Hands like 6-4 would take up to 20 seconds. Real playable hands could also be known by the number of seconds it took him to play them. High pocket pairs got an instant bet. You could add one to 14 seconds as the hands went down in strength. One of the more experienced players commented on the time it took him to play each hand.
When you carefully watch what happens pre-flop, you will make better decisions all the way to and on the river. The time will come when you will know when to holdem and when to foldem. And sometimes you will just know without knowing why. This is not instinct. It is unconscious knowledge. When this happens and that happens they equal check, bet, raise, re-raise or fold.