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Guide on Reading Your Opponents’ Poker Tells

Poker is a game of skill, with some luck involved. There is a solid psychological aspect of poker, aspeople’s nature is to make specific movements when they make decisions or take actions they know are false. In poker,these are called tells – the habits, behaviors, and physical actions that players make, and observing these can allow you insight into their hand and provide an edge when you play live pokergames. Here, our experts discuss poker tells, and we’ll outline the most common poker tells.

How to Read Poker Tells?

Being able to notice and correctly interpret tells in your poker opponents is particularly important. Carefully observing your opponents is the way you can spot and read what poker tells; it is a trait that will help you recognize the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle cues a person makes. It does not matter if you are playing Texas Hold ‘em poker, Omaha, Stud poker, or another variety with different poker rules; the poker players almost always have specific tells.

Before you can try to discern the subtle tells, you need to establish a baselinefind the baseline behavior of your opponents and use it as a guide for further analysis of your opponents and noticing their tells. You can’t learn anything meaningful from a single observation, so you need to devote time and effort to discerning the tells. We need to outline that you should never put too much trust in these but use these as guidelines to adjust your poker strategy and decide on your following actions.

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Different Poker Tells

The poker tells are vastly different for most players, but we can narrow these down to three main categories. Knowing these will ultimately help you improve your own poker game:

✅ Physical Tells

Physical tells are the most prominent and easily discernible category, as people are prone to making unconscious physical actions that are related to their thoughts. These may include specific eye movements, touching the ear, nose, neck, or eyebrow, fidgeting, biting the lip, hand movements like stacking or playing with the chips, and many similar things.

✅ Verbal Tells

The verbal tells are more obvious to notice. These may include changes in speech patterns, specific verbal interactions, players becoming more talkative when they have a stronger hand, and becoming subdued/quiet when they have a weak hand. Another prevalent verbal poker tell is when the player changes their demeanor, such as becoming defensive or aggressive, which you can use to gain insight into their hand.

✅ Betting Tells

Many players may have a good grasp on their physical and verbal behavior, but they may display tells like betting patterns or timing tells. For example, if a player suddenly makes a bet increase is usually indicative of a strong hand. If they hesitate, they may be uncertain about their hand, and if they consistently make small bets, they probably play with a weak hand. If they are quick to make an action after a bet, like calling, it may mean they are bluffing.

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Top Common Tells in Poker

Now that we’ve outlined the important aspects of the different categories of poker tells, here we share a list of the common tells in poker displayed by most poker players:

✅ Eye Contact

Eye contact is the initial poker tell that you can observe, as frequently, the player will look at their chips with an attractive gleam after they look at their cards, which may indicate that they have a strong poker hand. Other times, the player may avoid eye contact, which may indicate a weak hand or a bluffing attempt. We need to note that many times, experienced poker players may use eye movements to try to intentionally deceive opponents. It brings us to the conclusion that you need to observe your opponents, establish a baseline for their behavior, and then try to read them.

✅ Posture & Body Language

Body language is a strong non-verbal form of communication, and one you can use to try and note someone’s poker tells. When someone sits in a relaxed position and does not make any extra movements, it may be an indication of a strong hand, and when someone fidgets and is slumping, it may be indicative of a weak hand. Please note that you need to observe your opponents and establish a baseline, as only then can you interpret the changes in posture and body language, as poker tells.

✅ Specific Movements

When a player makes specific movements, it may directly relate to their poker hand or their intention. Someone may touch their ear, touch the lip with their tongue, or even make a specific facial expression when they are trying to bluff or decide on an action. These tells are very common in poker and are more easily observable than subtle ones.

✅ Talking Style

Changes in the talking style are also common tells. For example, when a player becomes suddenly more talkative, it may mean they are trying to distract you from their hand or try to deter you from making an inevitable move. Also, when a player is talkative throughout the play, but they suddenly become silent, it may mean they are concentrating on an action, like making a bluff, a c-bet, or a raise.

✅ Action/Reaction Time

The time the player takes to make an action when it is their turn is also a common tell. For example, a player who has a strong hand will usually take their time to make an action, while a player who has a medium hand will hesitate, while a player with a poor hand will usually make a quick action. The same goes for the reaction time. For example, when you make a raise, and it is their turn to take action, they may be very quick about it, which indicates they have a poor hand.

✅ Bet Size

When you play poker with someone, you will need a couple of rounds to establish their baseline and determine their betting habits. So, a sudden change like an increase in the bet size usually suggests a strong hand, which is another common tell in poker. Also, when someone suddenly goes all-in, this is an action that can go both ways. They can either have a very strong hand and are building the pot, or they have a poor hand and are falsely representing strength. For this, you need to observe their body language, eye movements and eye contact, and you need to employ your intuition and knowledge on their tells.

✅ Freezing/Hesitation when Betting

Any hesitation before making a bet could indicate uncertainty, so you can use this tell to try and differentiate the type of poker hand the opponent has. Freezing means the player is likely bluffing, and it shows that they are afraid to give away any information about their hand. Still, we need to mention that it is easy to confuse freezing with calm, comfortable behavior.

Online Poker Tells

The tells we outlined above are more common at land-based poker tables, so here, we also need to outline how you can spot online poker tells. When you play poker online, you are not in close proximity to your opponents, and while you may look at them via a camera feed, it is not the same as being in the room with them. So, here are the common poker tells in online poker:

  • Response time: the time the player takes to decide online poker is a clear indication that they are not an experienced player or they are hesitating to make a move. It is also a sign they have a weaker hand, as a confident player knows that he’ll do right off the bat
  • Change in bet sizes: when a player frequently changes their bet sizes, they are adjusting it to their hand strength, so if they make a bigger bet, they have a strong hand, and if they make a smaller bet, they have a poor hand
  • Heavy betting in early position: this means the player has a strong hand and wants to maximize the pot size as early as possible, as they are confident they have a winning hand and will win the pot. Sometimes, it is also used as a bluffing strategy, so you should also assess the table
  • Chatroom conversations: you need to observe and participate in the live chats during the online poker game, as players tend to share important tidbits that you can interpret correctly and determine their hand strength.

How to Avoid Giving Off Tells?

You know the common poker tells, so now it is important to understand how to prevent yourself from giving away tells that your opponents may use against you. Here are some essential things to know:

  • Assume a consistent playing style
  • Don’t make significant changes in bet sizes
  • Don’t become too chatty in the chatroom, but be constant
  • Be polite and neutral when interacting with other players

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What is a tell in poker?

A tell in poker is a specific movement, change in speech, betting, or behavior that indicates the player is making an action. It may indicate the player has a strong hand and is maximizing the pot, or they have a poor hand and are trying to bluff their way out.

How do you spot tells when playing poker?

Spotting the tells can become an ingrained feature after you gain a significant experience. But for this, you need to observe your opponents and establish a baseline, compare their actions against the baseline, and note when they are making a move that is out of the ordinary.

How do you know when someone is bluffing?

When someone is bluffing in poker, they will often have a specific tell, as the human body is hardwired to fight against false actions. Even though people may be experienced in lying, they will inadvertently make some specific yet subtle actions that may give away their intention.

How do I protect myself from giving away tells when playing poker?

To prevent yourself from giving away tells when playing poker, we advise you to assume a consistent playing style. Make bets in consistent sizes and don’t deviate a lot, no matter the hand strength you have, which will indicate you are a calm, confident player. When you talk to other opponents, assume a neutral tone of voice and don’t complain about past hands or anything that may lead to giving away your hand.

What does it mean when someone is placing large bets?

When someone is placing large bets, it usually means they have a very strong hand that can stand up to most challenges, and they are placing a large bet to increase the pot size. But it also may be a bluffing tactic to cover a poor hand and try to outplay the opponents.

What does it mean when someone is playing with their chips?

If a person is constantly playing with their chips, it may mean they are a more nervous player. If they play with their chips throughout every round, it may be a nervous habit. Still, if they suddenly start fidgeting and assume a nervous stance, it is usually indicative of a nervous player and one who is thinking of bluffing.

How do you notice tells when playing online poker?

When you are playing online poker, it may be more challenging, but you can still note some things. These may be a change in the response time, a significant change in the bet size, a change in their demeanor in the chatroom conversation, or they may make a heavy bet early in the game.