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One of the most satisfying moments in a poker game is when you catch your opponent giving away information that he doesn’t know he’s giving away and you can use it to scoop up a big pile of chips.

 

There’s nothing like reading a “tell” and using it to either put your opponent in a bad situation or get yourself out of one. Some players have so many and such consistent tells that you can play against them almost as if you can see their cards.

 

What Is A Tell In Poker?

 

In the game of poker, a tell is something that a player does subconsciously which gives other players in the game information unintentionally. For example, a normally talkative person might become suddenly quiet when he is bluffing, or an anxious person may begin shaking or twitching when they are excited by having a great hand.

Poker tells are easiest to spot and use in live game situations, but there are also tells available in online poker if you know what to look for. Learning to read and use tells is what many players call a part of the “metagame”. They have nothing to do with odds, probabilities, or mathematics, but if you learn to spot and use them, the ability to read tells can have a significant effect on your win rate.

 

Common Poker Tells That You Should Know

 

Whether you play live poker at a casino or online poker at home, there are some common tells that every player should be aware of and watch for while playing. Some of them are obvious and some subtle, but all of them can help you put some extra padding in your pockets the next time you take a seat at a poker table.

Most tells have two sides. For example, you could say it is a tell if a player is talking too much, but also if a player is talking too little. Generally, what you are looking for is when your opponent does the opposite of what he normally seems to do.

 

Common Live Game Poker Tells

 

The list of live poker tells is almost endless. Just about anything could be a tell. The key is to observe your opponents carefully. Study their habits and you’ll eventually be able to see small changes in their normal behavior.

 

Making Or Not Making Eye Contact

You can tell a lot about a person by simply looking into their eyes. When someone at the poker table looks you directly in the eyes, it usually conveys strength. When someone is confident they become relaxed and are more likely to look you directly in the eyes. When they have a weak hand or are trying to bluff, they usually become nervous and will avoid eye contact.

Again, it’s very important to take this type of tell in context. Another player looking at or avoiding looking at you will only indicate something when what they are doing doesn’t fit with their normal behavior.

 

Handling Of Chips And Cards

Many players give things away with their hands either as they’re playing their turn or waiting for their turn to come. A very common tell is shakey hands. Many people simply can’t control a slight tremor in their hands when they get excited or nervous.

You may also notice a player who casually plays with his chips suddenly start shuffling them around much faster without realizing it. Others will begin to stack their chips into bet amounts, not realizing that they are being watched before their turn comes up. Then, of course, you may see someone who constantly plays with his chips suddenly drop them and put his fingertips on the table or on top of his cards.

Some players will do the same sort of things with their cards. Many players don’t realize that they make certain movements with their cards when they’re getting anxious about waiting for their turn so they can fold—or bet.

The hands can be a very solid indicator of what someone plans to do, especially with casual players who don’t even realize they’re giving off signs.

 

Talking Around The Table

Much like hand movement, many people can’t control the way they talk—or don’t talk—when they are in a certain state of mind. Whether or not people talk, what they say, and how they say it, can all be indicators of the strength of the cards they hold.

As we mentioned above, some people will chatter away the entire time they’re at the table and suddenly quiet down when they hit a good hand. Others will sit almost silently and suddenly come to life when the cards fall in their favor.

You’ll also run into players who talk, either a lot or just casually, but it’s not how much they talk that will tell you something, but how they talk. Changes in tone of voice or speed can be good indicators.

You’ll also run into people who will start talking about the hand when they get involved. You might hear one say, “Well if you’re going to bet like that, I’m forced to call.” This player could be feigning weakness when he really has a monster. Many bad players love to try to give off “reverse tells” like this.

 

Online Poker Tells

Online poker tells are harder to spot and it’s more difficult to judge if they are reliable, but they do exist and can help you beat some of your opponents. You will definitely need to pay a lot more attention to your opponents online than in a face-to-face live game.

For the most part, you are trying to spot those moments when someone goes against what they usually do. You’re looking for times when an aggressive player suddenly backs off, or a passive player suddenly starts betting and raising.

You should also be trying to spot times where someone might be obviously tilted and playing badly. Watch for, as an example, someone who doesn’t usually play a lot of hands to start opening hands out of position or three betting far too much. You might also see something like someone at the table suddenly start calling everything preflop and raising every bet that comes on the flop. These are usually signs of anger and frustration—and someone who just wants to throw away a stack or two.

If you’re not playing on too many tables, you should be able to spot out of the ordinary behavior caused by tilt relatively easily. You can also use statistics and a poker HUD program to help spot deviations from normal behavior.

 

What Are Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Have you ever made a bundle because of someone else’s poker tell or lost a bundle because of yours? Got any tips for spotting other tells at the table?

Let’s talk in the comments below! You can also catch the Enhance Your Edge team on Twitch and Discord if you’d like to get into some deep real-time discussion!

Jeff

Jeff has been writing about poker and gambling for several years. He's an avid poker player who enjoys the game as well as the casino atmosphere in general. He's online most nights for at least an hour or two playing micro and small stakes cash games.
Jeff

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