Tells in poker

Being able to ‘read tells’ is one of the most important things you can do in poker. It helps you to spot a bluff or with being able to pull one off, which automatically gives you a great advantage.

What the cards say is one thing – what someone’s body language is saying is an altogether different matter.

Sometimes you’ll have a hunch that someone’s hand is not all that they’d have you believe, but you can’t quite put your finger on why. Often there is good reason you’ve got that sense of something not being quite right.

There is a whole repertoire of subconscious signalling going on in a game and, although you might not be aware of it, you may well have picked up on someone’s body language without even registering it consciously.

There are numerous books on the subject of body language – it’s far too complex a subject to do justice to here. But, of course, if you’re playing online, there are books that you can leave on the shelf.

How to read tells online

In cyber space, no-one can read your tells … or at least that’s what we’d all like to think.

The truth is that when we play poker online there is still a lot that can be read into our moves even though we are physically invisible to each other. The trouble is that with the pressure on and so much else to think about, it is easy to ignore the incidental aspects of someone else’s play.

The pace at which people play tends to vary and can be used to gain insight into their thinking. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but anyone who is bluffing is likely to play at a different pace to how they ordinarily do. Lots of people use check boxes to call or raise pretty much instantaneously.

The thing to look out for is a change of pace. A hesitation can be just as revealing as someone going all in the moment a card is turned – who sets up to go all in automatically? There’s nothing definitive in this, but it is another thing to weigh into the equation when you’re assessing the state of the game.

The bottom line is that if someone makes a sudden deviation from their normal habit, it is always worth stopping for a moment to consider the implications. The value of the pot and the odds should always be your guide, but there are always other angles to the game. Keeping an eye on the clock is certainly not the worst of them.

Same goes if a player is constantly raising or re-raising. Using the player notes available in poker clients such as Pokerstars you can create your own database over time. This allows you to know if a player on your table has previously played loose or very tight. Giving you an idea of the player’s character.

Also read: The game within the game, metagame explained.