We have all heard of poker tells in real life and there are many examples in popular culture. In "Casino Royale", James Bond spotted Le Chiffre's tell, only for this poker tell to be used against him later on! So be careful of tells, sometimes they are false!
Physical tells are seen in the body language of players. Obviously with online poker it is impossible to read your opponents body language and will remain to be so, until poker players and online poker sites start using web cams.
However, poker tells are not only to do with body language and can also be seen in the way a player plays or acts. As this site is dedicated mainly to online poker we are going to look at online poker tells.
Online Poker Tells
It is important to understand tells for three reasons.
The reasons 1 and 2 are vital, with the second highlighted with the very old poker saying:
I would change the saying only slightly for online poker due to its faster nature than real life poker to:
Reason 3 can be used to improve your game play and trick unsuspecting opponents.
Online poker tells can be read by several factor, taken on their own or in combination. These factors are:
1. Online Poker Tells - Take Your Time
All online poker site place a time limit within which all players must act. Most sites will give players between 20-30 seconds to decide and act, with a reminder when there are about 10 seconds left. If a player doesn't act within the time limit, they will be timed out and their hand automatically folded. However, many players do not realize that the speed with which they act can be an online tell.
Once a player has some experience they react to their hole cards in similar ways, so they'll fold, call, bet or raise very quickly. An example of this is when a player has a pair of Aces, they'll bet or raise very quickly, if they have something they're not sure about they'll take time. This gives you an idea of what they might have. Good poker players will play with self-control and take almost the same time to act regardless of what the strength of their hand is.
The time you take is up to you and should incorporate thinking time. You should choose between 5 and 10 seconds and then stick to it. Remember even if you are going to fold you should wait. This patience will pay off in the long run as other players will never be able to read what you are holding.
When observing other players you need to develop a feel for whether a player is hiding his strength or has a difficult decision to make. Some players purposefully take their time when they have a strong hand to make it look like their hand is weak, so be careful. However, just remember that most poor players (fish) have no idea of this kind of thing in the first place.
2. Online Poker Tells- Quantity
In our online course we have discussed buying into a game in our money bankroll section. The size of someone's pile of chips can be an online tell.
If someone has a small pile of chips this can mean two things. One they have either taken a serious beating and maybe off balance (on tilt), or they have bought into the game with a smaller amount than is usual.
In the case of a beating, the player maybe tilted and eager to recuperate their chips. Usually, good players are accustomed to taking a beat, even a bad beat, and remain controlled as they know this is part of the game. Winning in the long term is the goal!
When a player buys in with the smaller amount than usual, this can suggest timidity and weakness. These players may be easy to bluff.
After gaining some experience and observing the above two case you will start to be able to take an advantage when the opportunity arises.
3. Online Poker Tells - Patterns
Always observe how other player are playing and spot when they change their pattern of play. A tight player (a player who only plays good hands) sits back and rarely plays their hands and when they do you can almost be sure they have something big. So if you don't have a great hand don't continue and fold.
We have a whole section on player types and styles so we recommend you study these.
One of the biggest pattern tells to take advantage of is the player who Can't Fold, Won't Fold. Look out for players who rarely fold and call no matter how poor their cards are. These players are inevitably, loose players, or just don't know how to play the game.
Another type of player to lookout for is a player who is playing at more than one table. The easiest way is to look in the lobby at the players playing at other tables and see if any names match the table you are at.
Playing at two tables or more is an error. Any player who does this is telling their opponents that they find it difficult to play a game with patients the way the game needs to be played. Due to restlessness of this type of player they can play hands they shouldn't and lookout for when they go on tilt from being beat on another table. Here is where good player step in and take full advantage of the situation. These players are also not observing other players with too much depth or taking player note as they simply don't have time. This is a disadvantage to them and an advantage to you.
4. Online Poker Tells - Chat and Showing Off
As a player you should not use the chat if possible, I myself only use it to say goodbye to the table and to say thank you when someone comments on a good play. I do this only because a part of me believes in courtesy.
Chatting away in the chat box means two things.
Two examples of chat I have seen and used to my advantage are when a player says they've been drinking or they say what mental state they are in for example "pi**** off". Both these facts are great examples of how people give away information about there state and allows you can take advantage.
Quite often player who make comments often about how poor other players are playing and try to give out advice think they are good, but in reality aren't. They may have experience but are so keen to demonstrate they are great they have stopped trying to improve. There is always a great feeling when you out wit these guys. And their defense is "bad beat".
Another way a player can show off is literally showing there hole cards after a bluff. This can be a useful tool but I would recommend newer players not to show there hole cards whenever possible. More advanced players can show cards for "advertising" purposes. This is basically you telling the table, "hey guys I bluff". Do this with moderation otherwise someone will call you out and soundly thrash you. So keep your eye out for players who step over the line and give you too much information about their play.