Poker Tells

We all try to read other players Poker Tells, but many players don’t really realize what their own poker tells are. Most players are more involved in trying to read another player’s tells they forget to limit their own. All of us try to limit the obvious tells such as facial expressions when we look at our cards or the flop, but it is the other less obvious tells we forget about.

One of the most important poker tells that is often overlooked, in my opinion, is betting. There a couple tells associated with betting which I’ll get into but the one of most importance is timing. Have you ever checked a hand hoping the other players would do the same so you could get a free flop or extra card? Everyone has, but the real question is:

How quickly did you check immediately following the deal or the flop?

First, if you are first to act after the deal or after the flop, if you check quickly this in itself may not be “telling” but it will be through the course of the game. Let’s take an example, in one hand you check hoping for a free card but fold quickly after someone bets, later, you check on marginal hole cards and decide to quickly call when only one or two other people stay in. Later, you check on the deal, and you flop a monster. You’re first to act, and you definitely want to think about this hand so you take your time and you decide to slow play it. You check. This is a clear poker tell, the other players will fold and all you win is the blinds. How is this a poker tell? If you act quickly with your checks through most of the game, the few times you want to use a check to your advantage become obsolete. Good players will recognize you have a good hand when you take your time before a check. This does not just apply to checking, any time you bet, try to be deliberate. Granted, I hate a slow table but we’re not talking 10 minute meditation sessions, just give pause before action.

The next two poker tells related to betting are what I like to call “Confident” bets and “Nervous” bets. These tells are usually not noticed by normal home game players but an astute player will. The vocal tell; how do you call out your bet or action? You almost certainly don’t realize it when playing, but you probably say the value of your bet in slightly different tones or volumes when bluffing or holding a monster. It is pretty obvious vocally when you make a confident bet or nervous bet. Secondly, how do make the bet? Placing the chips on the table seems innocent but it can be telling, how hard do you put the chips on the table, how far onto the table do you put them? You may bet a strong hand with confidence putting the chips way out in front of you, and limp in nervously merely pushing your chips a few inches in front of you card.

The last poker tell I’ll discuss is your eyes. “The eyes are the window to the Soul” is BS in poker; but where do you look when you place a bet, especially, All-in? Do you look at the other players as they bet, do you divert your eyes downward, what do you look at; Your cards, the pot, the dealer’s hands, the other player’s chips? A great trick for reading a player’s tell is where he looks. For example, a player makes a large bet and you’re definitely considering calling him, you watch him for tells, he is looking down trying not give anything away. You call and see he wasn’t holding a great hand after all, later in the game the same player makes another large bet, this time he is looking directly at you. He wants you to call. You fold pretty sure he has a strong hand. These are not rules set in stone but learn the players; you’ll be amazed how they look in different places depending on their hand or their bet. If a player looks down most of the time it is a strong possibility looking elsewhere at other times will also translate to the hand being different from the times he looks down, it is your job to learn which is which.

I could probably go on for pages with all the different poker tells people have. But I think the ones discussed above are the tells players could really avoid if they thought about them. They are obvious tells (if a good player is paying attention), but they are even easier for you to control. Always try to be deliberate no matter how good or how bad the hand is; trying to take the same amount of time before every action you make. And behave in the same manner regardless of your feelings toward the hand you have. “Confident” and “Nervous” tells are easy tells to read, don’t make that mistake. Finally, try to act the same after you bet, limping in and going all-in should look like the same bet when it comes to your eyes.