Poker tells are small mannerisms or habits that players have which give away information as to the strength of their hand. A player who gains information is at a distinct advantage over his opponent, especially if the players tell is unconscious and consistent. There are many people that believe that we all have tells of some sort, even if they might be very subtle. By watching a player play, it is often possible to identify things that the player does when they have a strong hand and corresponding things they do when they have a weak one. This knowledge is a powerful weapon in any hand of poker as it can give us an edge over our opponents. Of course tells in live poker are different from those exhibited when playing online poker for the reason that you can't see players so some live poker tells wouldn't be possible online.
There are significantly more tells that are available when you can see the player your in hand with. Here are some common tells that exist in the live game.
1) If the eyes dart back to the cards they are nervous and if they avoid eye contact they may well have a bad hand.
2) Weak play is often a sign of strength and vice versa. If a player seems very confident they have often not got a strong holding.
3) Facial expressions are a good sign. Many people wear caps or glasses to try and hide their eyes as they know the eyes are the biggest tell. The eyes never lie..
4) Trembling hands indicate being nervous and excited, It often means the player has a strong hand.
5) A player taking sudden interest in the game. There is likely a very good reason for it - they are likely on a monster.
6) The way a player stacks their chips is often a tell as to how a player plays. A player who organizes their chips in nicely arranged stacks is often a tight player whilst those that have disorganized stacks are often more aggressive.
7) A loud talkative player suddenly falls silent. This can often mean they are on a big hand and are trying to figure out how to get the maximum value from the hand.
8) It is often to see other more subtle tells like the vein in a players neck. It is often possible to see when a player has a big hand as the heart rate goes up and the vein starts pumping harder, which is often visible to the naked eye.
9) Betting patterns are a common tell in which players bet a certain way when they have a big hand and another way when they are bluffing.
10 ) A players posture can tell a thousand words. Many players sit back in their chair when they aren't interested in the hand. You might also spot that when they have a big hand they will sit forward and possible start tapping hands and feet.
11) Players who are planning their attack will often eye their chips repeatedly.
12) A player with a big hand will often have a dry throat due to being nervous and may take a drink of water.
13) It's often possible to spot those players who are on a flush draw when there are two of one suit on the board. These players will often take another peak at their cards just to check what suit they are holding.
14) The length of time the player looks at their cards pre flop (the Apex). Players tend to spend shorter time looking at monster starting hands.
As i already stated, online poker tells are more subtle and far fewer in number but they are still there. Here are the main online poker tells.
1) Betting patterns - this is common in the online game also in which players give away the strength of their hand by how much they bet.
2) The delay in checking - players who take an extended amount of time before checking usually are not keen on a bet from you. It's very often an attempt to see the next card free.
3) Using the Auto Check Button - this is a predetermined action and usually indicates a weak hand. It tells a player that they were going to check anyway regardless of what you did so they can't have much.
4) The Automatic call - there is another automatic button to insta-call any bet. This indicates that the player is holding a monster and you should consider getting out the pot unless you have the goods to match.
5) The Delayed Bet - the tell here is that a player who delays before betting usually has a strong hand. This is used by a lot of players trying to double bluff online so take this one with a pinch of salt (too many people know this one now!).
6) Chat box - you can often pick up information on a players holding by what he/she is saying in the chat box. This is a needles one to give away. It's far safer to turn it off. If you want to have it on - take care on what you write as you may be giving away information.
7) When a player has folded for a period of time and then suddenly plays a hand aggressively, it's very likely they are on a big hand.
Of course all these tells an be used to double bluff your opponents. Good players and especially professional players will regularly put false tells out there to try and through off an opponent. The key to picking up tells is to study your opponents and see what you can pick up. Unfortunately it can take a little time to work out whether a player is genuinely giving off tells or whether they are getting creative.
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No tell is 100%, ever, so in terms of reliability, there is no easy answer. You will need to study your opponents and in time you will see what a player does throughout a hand. The most amounts of information will be picked up when a player makes it to showdown. At that point you will know what they were betting, how much, whether there were any mannerisms that you picked up during the hand etc. When you see a player playing 20 winning hands and 20 losing hands, there will be things that the player is likely doing that are specific to holding a strong or weak hand. Concentration is of the utmost importance when trying to pick up tells.
Remember that tells merely give us information. So whilst it's not 100%, we should use it to form the best decision possible on a course of action.