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Spotting Common Poker Tells And Reading Your Opponents

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What are poker tells?

Tells are mannerisms, body language and verbal clues that you and your opponents display during the course of the game.

Good players are always closely observing their opponents , searching for tells or “getting a read” on the types of hands they play and their betting patterns.

Once you’ve mastered poker strategies, studying tells and the psychological aspect of poker will take your game to the expert level.

Not much had been written about poker tells until the recent rise in popularity of high-stakes No-Limit Texas Holdem tournaments.

Mike Caros book of poker tells “The Body Language of Poker” is the only book I know of dedicated entirely to tells and is considered a must read for every serious poker player.

Caros book is full of photographs illustrating and discussing every player behavior you can imagine.

In this article I will explain the common tells I consider to be the most important and the ones that have worked well for me in both live play and online.

Live Poker Tells

Spotting tells are especially important in live, no-limit games and tournaments but also play a big strategic role in all games, live and online.

1. Acting strong when they have a weak hand and acting weak with a strong hand.

This is the most common ploy you’ll see weak and inexperienced players make. It’s usually an act but beware of a player taking it to the next level.

If he knows you know he is acting he might just switch tactics by betting with a strong hand, hoping you’ll call, or check a weak hand hoping you’ll also check fearing he is strong which will give him a free card.

My advice to you is not to try this yourself. Very few poker players are good at giving out false tells and most descent players will catch on to what you are trying to do.

The most important step in eliminating your own tells is to develop a routine, play the same way every hand.

Raise the same amount.

Take the same amount of time to make your decision.

Show no emotions.

Wearing a hat and sunglasses will hide your eye movements and facial expressions.

Don’t look at your hole cards until it’s your turn to act. Use this time to study the other players as they check their cards.

Look for how fast they make their decision.

How they handle their chips.

What they say, or don’t say.

Try to look for patterns in how they play and at the end of the hand replay in your mind every betting round and how, and why they did what they did.

Don’t try to focus on all the players at once, you’ll just get confused.

Single out one person at a time and try spotting clues to their style of play.

Do they play loose and aggressive or tight and passive?

Spotting Common Poker Tells And Reading Your Opponents

2. As your opponent makes a huge bet you notice that his hand is visibly shaking.

You’ve caught him at a bluff, right?

Wrong. This is a classic tell and considered to be one of the most reliable.

The shaking is coming from a release of tension because he has a very strong hand and expects to win a big pot.

Tricky players may try to fake this move but you will not see this attempted very often, especially by beginners and intermediate players.

3. Players staring conspicuously at you when it’s your turn to act are attempting to prevent your bet by intimidation.

Instead of being intimidated, bet your medium-strong hands or better.

You may get called but you will almost never be raised by this player.

4. An opponent looking away from you is usually more dangerous than a player who is staring at you when its your turn to act.

They want you to bet, call or bluff and are trying to make you feel comfortable making those plays by acting indifferent to what you decide to do.

Of course again a good player may know that you know this, if he thinks you are a player capable of thinking at that level.

5. Watch their reactions when they look at their cards.

When players first look at their hole cards they’re usually not acting because they don’t realize they’re being watched.

Players who quickly glance at their chips after seeing their hole cards are probably planning to bet.

They’re checking to see how many chips they have to bet. Counting their ammo.

There are no guarantees when it comes to poker tells.

This is what makes poker a sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating battle of wits.