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“Tell” is a common poker term used to describe an unconscious signal that an opponent gives out which betrays the strength or weakness of their hand. Some players might look nervous when bluffing… that is a “tell”. Other players might loosely throw chips into the pot when they have a monster…another tell. Good players will pick up on you tells in live play and you should be trying to pick up on theirs.

When playing online, you will quickly get a grasp of tells for certain situations. The two key tells are timing tales and bet size tells. It is important to note when examining tells in online poker that many advanced players will use your perception of what their tell is in order to encourage you into a decision which is less than optimal. That being said, many beginning players give tells which are useful in trying to determine their likely holdings. Before you act on a tell, you must also assign a probability to the possibility that it is a purposefully incorrect tell.

Bet sizes are important

In trying to limit the number of tells that you give, you should always keep your bet sizes within a certain range. The range which I use is that I always make my bet sizes between half and three quarters of the pot. This way, a typical opponent can never use the size of my bet in an optimal way to try and figure out what I have.

More advanced opponents will pick up on the size of a bet between these two goalposts. For example, if you always bet half the pot when you’re trying to hit a draw, good opponents will recognise this quickly. When you feel that they do recognise this, you can use this to your advantage and bet half the pot with an over pair or a set in this situation sometimes. This makes it much harder for them to get accurate information from the size of your bet… and makes the pot a lot bigger when they incorrectly read you tell and you hold a monster.

The timing tell

The timing tell is how long it takes for you to come to a decision about your actions while at the poker table. Some players routinely go into the tank (they take a long time) when they have monster hands. It is important that you use the facility available to you in most poker sites to record this type of information in player notes because it can be worth a lot of money to you. Other players sometimes bet very quickly on the flop when they have raised before the flop (a continuation bet) with a hand like AK and the flop misses them.  Often in this case, all you have to do is flat call behind this type of player on the flop and wait for them to check the turn. This way, you can pick up a nice pot with very little risk.

Offline, understanding and applying tells is critical

If you begin to play live poker, tells become much more important. They include the body language of the player, the way they handle the chips, what they do when they look at their cards, how they put their chips into the pot, where they look when they have made a bet and many other aspects of their body language and voice.

Some old school professional poker players argue that online, it is impossible to win money on the Internet because everyone is playing in an optimal way. While this is false, it is certainly true that if you are an expert reader of people, you win rate per hand is likely to be significantly higher in live play.

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