Although online poker tells are never going to be as reliable as live poker tells, they can certainly help you gain an edge on your opponents. In online poker there are different type of tells and I will go through each and everyone of them in this article.
A tell is a piece of information you pick up from your opponent’s behaviour which indicates the strength of his or her hand. There are also more general pieces of information which can give you a sense of your opponents skill level or style, such as nationality and VIP status. I will include these in the article even though they are outside of what’s generally considered as a “tell”.
Keep in mind that these tells aren’t true for every player. Make sure you have reliable tells by watching hands that get to showdown and make notes on your opponent. This sets you up well for future encounters too.
A timing tell is exactly what it sounds like; when the timing of your opponent’s action indicates the strength of his or her hand. Here are all the timing tells I pay attention to at the tables:
Long pause before betting or raising – this usually indicates a strong hand as your opponent is trying to signal weakness by pretending to have a difficult decision. In some cases it might just be that your opponent need some time to figure out the best move with his monster hand. Either way, unless you are a player capable of turning marginal hands into bluffs you will rarely be in a situation when you face a tough decision and end up raising instead of calling or folding. So when you see a player do this, don’t let them fool you into thinking they are bluffing!
Instant raise – This tell signals strength and is something I see very often. They might be calling flop and turn with a flush draw and once they make the flush on the river they either tick the “bet/raise all” button in advance or instantly click the raise button once the action is on them.
Instant check – This is almost always a weak hand that is either folding to a bet or trying to get to showdown cheaply. Since the player doesn’t need any time to consider his move he is holding a hand he always plays the same way. This is most often hands that your opponents are either check-folding or check-calling with. So with many loose-passive players you can see an instant check-call with draws as well as these type of players aren’t even consider playing their draws as semi-bluffs.
Quick call – Usually a sign of a marginal or weak hand. Players tend to call quickly to show you that they aren’t going anywhere and hope that you slow down on later streets. If they were holding stronger hands they most likely would need at least a few seconds to consider raising.
Delayed check – The delayed check has a similar purpose as the quick call. Here the player doesn’t want you to bet so they are attempting to display strength by taking time with their decision.
Player timing out – When you see a player timing out a few times and at the same time seems to be playing a solid, straight forward game. You can be fairly sure this player is multi-tabling and as a result doesn’t bother about pulling off fancy bluffs.
Bet Sizing Tells
Odd number bets – Some players tend to bet odd numbers, like $9.98 instead of $10 when they have a certain type of hand. Some players do this with all type of hands but you will sometimes see players only betting weird amounts when they have a bluff as the odd number makes the amount of chips they put into the pot look bigger. You might also see some player betting odd numbers when they have a monster hand as they hope to confuse the opposition and induce some curious calls. Make sure you have seen at least one hand go to showdown before you take action on this tell.
Half pot bet with draws – If you see a player bet half pot with a draw but bigger with a made hand you may have a very valuable read on that opponent. This is a fairly common mistake amongst intermediate players focusing too much on exploitive plays and disregarding the information they give away with their bet sizing.
Bet size indicative of hand strength – It’s very common among loose passive players to bet small with a weak hand and big with a strong hand. Among extremely loose aggressive players I usually see the reverse. They like to bluff so they will bet huge when they have nothing, but at the same time they are somewhat aware of their image so when they have a monster they try their best to signal weakness by betting smaller or checking.
Over-bets – This is usually a sign of either a monster or complete trash. Make sure you have seen a player do this kind of bet before and get to showdown before you put any trust in your read.
Small turn bets – Especially after calling or check-calling flop, small turn bets usually indicates a weak pair or draw. Be inclined to continue raising if you were on a bluff or for value with a strong pair or better.
Location – Although these are certainly broad generalisations that should be taken lightly, the cultural background of a player usually has an affect on his style of poker and mentality. I will let you make your own reads here though.
VIP Status – If you are able to check the VIP status of a player this can tell you a bit about how much poker they play during the month.
Amount of tables – If you find someone playing at 4-12 tables you won’t be able to know which style of play they have but you can be fairly sure they are taking their game seriously.
Chat box activity – If someone is going on a rant in the chat or just being friendly what the player is actually saying usually paints a pretty clear picture of their state of mind.
The key skill needed in order to be able to pick up on reads is pattern recognition. Make sure you utilise your pattern recognition skills and you will be able to pick up on a lot more, player specific reads a long the way.
Avoid giving away tells
You should always try to be aware of which tells you are giving out and make sure that you take a similar amount of time with your decisions regardless of which type of hand you hold. Also make sure you bet similar amounts with draws as you do with made hands, at least when there are one or more decent players in the hand.
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