Online Poker Tells
Tells are the physical or verbal tics or clues that opponents give off to reveal the
strength (or weakness) of their hand.
In live poker in your local cardroom or casino, it's possible to pick up tells from your
opponents as you're sitting across the table from them. A player who's picked up pocket
aces may sit up straight and cross their arms, or a player who's bluffing may look away,
unable to look you in the eye when you size up a bet.
Meanwhile, a player wanting to induce a call from you may start chatting about how bad
his hand is.
With online poker, however, those verbal and visual clues can't be gleaned; you're at the
mercy of a computer screen and (in some cases) the chatbox.
Why Spotting Online Tells is Important
- Get a read on opponents when you can't see their face
- Pull off bluffs against savvy opponents
- Earn more cash in the long run
So, how can you get information from an opponent just by their actions at an online
table? Let's take a look at some of the common tells that players give off on the
1 - The 'Time Bank'
Good online players will be multi-tabling, perhaps playing half a dozen tables at the
same time. If you spot that a reasonably solid opponent is consistently running the
clock down, they may have their eye off the ball.
Yes, it could be merely down to a dodgy Internet connection, but if they're losing
concentration that means they're not paying full attention to what's going on. That's
when you can take advantage.
Top Tip: While we're on the subject of time, consider making a really
fast bet to scare your opponents. This shows you're confident with your hand and want to
intimidate another player.
2 - The Chatbox Warrior
Verbal tells are a godsend in live poker situations. However, that doesn't mean you can't
use your opponents' chat in online games.
Some players do like to use the chatbox, especially in big pots where there's a lot at
stake. If they hold a good hand, they might take to the chatbox to put you off calling.
Even if it's not of the "I wouldn't call if I were you," type comments, he might just
start typing gibberish into the box to distract you from your thought processes.
Of course, if you manage to talk an opponent out of a big hand, remember to show your
cards at showdown and toss in a quick 'wp' ('Well Played') comment to put him on
Top Tip: Switch off the 'Dealer chat' and just keep the player chat
open. This way, you won't lose track of anything your opponents are saying.
3 - The Auto-Check
To speed things along, especially when you're multi-tabling online, you can automatically
select your betting options (Check/Fold/Call) before the post-flop action gets round to
If the action comes to a player and he checks in an instant, this is a good sign he's
missed his flop and isn't interested in the hand anymore.
On the flipside, an insta-raise gives away the opposite: that an opponent has you crushed
and he can't wait to get that money in.
Top Tip: Avoid using the auto-check box yourself; good opponents will
soon spot it and take advantage.
4 - The Long, Long Wait
Although the Time Bank can be a sign that a player isn't fully involved in the hand,
other players will run down the clock in order to give off the illusion that they either
have a great hand or a terrible one.
Let's say you re-raise on a board of K-A-8 with pocket jacks to represent a monster. Your
opponent, holding pocket aces for a set, may run the clock to make out he's being put to
a tough decision.
Suddenly, with the clock almost gone, he raises. It's a sure sign of a strong hand, so
Conversely, a player who waits a long time then merely checks is doing the opposite;
giving off the impression he is deliberating a raise with a big hand when in fact he's
got nothing. His deliberation can be seen as a sign he may be contemplating a raise but
opts for a sneaky check instead.
Top Tip: Mix things up. If you think your opponents are sussing out your
betting patterns, try using the clock when both weak and strong to throw them off the
5 - The Constant 3-Bettor
Many online players are playing (or should be playing, if they want to improve their ROI)
hundreds of games a week, and might even be multi-tabling while you're facing them.
If they're a regular, solid grinder - particularly in low--mid stakes cash games - their
betting patterns will be pretty standard: 3x BB bets pre-flop and lots of continuation
bets when in position.
Because these moves work well at the lower stakes against inexperienced players, you can
pick off the grinders with some well timed re-raises post-flop to see how well your
Top Tip: Use your position to re-raise opponents who make regular,
standard bets a large percentage of the time.