Poker is a game of strategy that requires you to observe your opponent closely before making your next move. This is where the usefulness of poker tells comes in. Different players have different tells and in this blog, we look at what they are and how to spot common tells in both live and online poker games.
What Is a Poker Tell?
So what is a “tell” in poker? A tell is a change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that can give opponents clues about the player’s hand. These small actions can be very visible, such as a player suddenly starting to talk more than usual, or very subtle, such as a change in the player’s posture. What makes a tell what it is, is that it is primarily an involuntary action and can even go unnoticed by the player with the tell. Over time, opponents will pick up on this behavioral pattern, which is why the top poker players try to maintain the famous neutrality of a “poker face.”
How To Spot Poker Tells
For tells to be reliable, you would typically need to have played with that player long enough to know if their tell is really something they’re unaware of. Some smart players have been known to use “tells” deliberately in order to intentionally give their opponents false information. Part of your poker-playing strategy consists in making observation a habit. Over time you will learn how to sift through multiple tells and to differentiate between intended and unintended tells. You will also discover that the first tell is often genuine while the shortest tell is the most reliable. Generally speaking, most long and drawn-out tells are falls and set up to confuse you. The general rule to remember is that weakness usually means strength and vice versa.
Common Poker Tells in Live and Online Poker
There are various types of poker tells. When it comes to online poker, there are fewer tells to rely on because you cannot physically see who you’re playing against. Consequently, online tells won’t be as solid, although they can still come in handy.
1. The Combative All-In
In no-limit Texas Hold’em cash games, players will often use the all-in on the turn or river. When this happens, it’s important to observe how they put their chips in. Consider their body language and whether they’re maintaining eye contact with you. If the all-in strategy doesn’t add up considering the way the player has been playing, there’s a good chance that their holdings are weak and that they’re merely bluffing strength.
2. Making Eye Contact or Looking Away
Generally speaking, a player looking you straight in the eyes indicates strength. A big hand often makes players more relaxed, which then allows them to sustain eye contact. When a player is bluffing or has a weak hand, they’re usually less comfortable with looking directly at you.
3. Handling Chips and/or Cards
Look at how opponents handle their chips or their cards while they play. If you’re lucky, you may see an inexperienced player’s hands tremble when they’re looking at their cards or handling their chips. A new player who gets deep into a big pot and shows shaky hands suggests a very strong hand. As in most cases, however, this isn’t an infallible live poker tell.
4. Player Timing Out
Online poker can be easier than playing in person. Many players won’t be focussing completely on the game because they may be multitasking or even multi-tabling. Occasionally this may result in them not realizing that it’s their turn and they will time out. Because of the lack of focus, they’re most likely to be playing basic poker. If they bet, ensure you have a good hand to call with or fold. If they check, try raising to win the pot.
5. Bombarding the Chatbox With Messages or Emojis
When a player rants on in chat boxes about a bet or a bad beat and throws random insults at the table, it can indicate a player on tilt. This means that the player is frustrated and will most likely make strategy mistakes. This often happens when a player chases a win after a recent loss.