Poker Tells – How to Work a Tell to Your Advantage

Why does that player keep looking at his pocket cards?  He just wiped his mouth.  Was he trying to conceal a smile?  Why is he staring holes in that ace? Poker tells can let us know a lot about the hand our opponents have.

One of the key skills that every good live poker player has is the ability to read their opponents poker tells.  To be successful at any level, you need to know what each tell means, and how you can beat it.

Remember, poker is a game of mystery.  Take that component out of your opponents game – know which cards he has – and you’ve already got him beat.

What is a Poker Tell?

Simply put, a tell in poker is anything that alludes to information about a player’s hand. It can be a mannerism, twitch, behaviour, or habit – any physical action you make, believe it or not, can be telling your secrets to your opponents.

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Poker tells can be big and obvious, or as subtle as a glance. By learning the most common tells and what they mean, you can learn to watch for these things in your opponents’ games, and prevent yourself from performing them yourself.

The Most Common Poker Tells

1. Eyes, Eyes, Eyes
This is the killer poker tell. Did you ever notice how many of the professionals in tournaments and such wear sunglasses or hats? This is why. The truth is, eyes rarely lie. And good players know this. If you notice a player looking at pocket cards a bit longer than normal, you can almost always put them on a high pair or suited connectors. Most people can’t help but look at good cards longer than normal. If they raise, and even re-raise, you can bet they have something good.

2. Acting Opposites
Fact is, people love to act, and poker players are no exception. Here are a few tells to look out for:

– If I player looks disinterested in a hand, it’s usually a sign of a strong hand. The player is pretending not to be exciting, trying to give the allusion he has a weak hand. Don’t fall for this. If you don’t have the cards to beat a good hand, get out with you stack still intact.

– If you notice a player sighing or shrugging, accompanied with the obvious thoughts or even vocalizations of things like, “Why am I even calling this?” or “Alright, I guess I’ll call,” you can usually be sure that they have a solid hand.

– Watch out for when a player is trying to stare you down. By doing that, he or she is trying to represent strength, hoping you’ll fold. If you have a solid enough hand to beat their bluff, call and take their chips.

3. Glancing at Chips
You can watch for these poker tells at every stage of betting.

If, immediately after being dealt their cards, a player quickly glances to their chips, they probably were dealt a pretty solid hand. Glancing at your chips is a subconscious act made when you’re preparing to bet.

You do this to see how many chips you have, and how many you can afford to bet on your hand. You’ll notice that most players who possess winning hands will do this. Next time, when you notice a player doing this, if you can’t beat him, get out with your stacks still intact.

4. Looking at Hole Cards on the Flop
This usually represents a draw of some sort, possibly flush or straight. A player does think to check his cards again, looking to see if he’s connected with his straight or flush possibilities. If you notice them betting big on the turn or river, you’d usually be pretty safe to say they’ve hit their draw and are trying to drag as much money out of you late in the hand.

5. Watch the Face
Facial expressions can often give away everything about a hand. If someone looks nervous and uneasy, they are probably acting on a bluff or improbable draw.

If someone blushes when you look at them, more than likely, they’re bluffing. Also, watch the pulse on their temple. The reasoning for this method can be tracked all the way back to the cavemen. It’s a natural instinct for a person to exhibit certain characteristics when preparing to call a challenge or engage in a battle. When a person is ready for confrontation – when they have a good hand – their pulse will increase, often visible via their right temple.

Their rate of breathing will often skyrocket, rapidly inhaling and exhaling, visible through their chest. For some people, their noses flare. Watch out for these characteristics – they may save you a lot of chips you’d otherwise be wasting!

Watching out for these poker tells and learning how to counteract them when playing live poker is one of the most important things to learn when trying to better you game.

One other thing to remember regarding poker tells is to learn your own and use it to your advantage either by covering them up or switching your obvious tells at the right time to fool other players.

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