Online Poker Tells

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Online Poker Tells


There are some poker players, a steadily shrinking minority it must be said, who refuse to play online poker because they feel that they are conceding a previously held advantage, namely the ability to spot poker tells. These players think that the key to winning at poker is reading their opponents' tells, and they also think that there is no such thing as an online tell because you cannot see your opposition.

First of all, the idea that you can accurately tell what your opponent is holding based solely on the way he moves for his chips, the time he takes or does not take, or the way he nibbles at an Oreo cookie is questionable at best. Poker is a game of deception, and at the higher levels of the game players deliberately seek to misinform the rest of the table with false tells that look a lot like the real thing. Second, and more importantly, there are online tells and the point of this article is how to recognize and profit from them.

The most obvious tell in poker is the time a player takes to make a decision. In a live game when a player agonizes over his hand you make the assumption that he either genuinely has a tough decision or wants you to think this but really has an easy decision. That decision might be to fold, and he wants to make the others squirm before folding, or he might be extremely strong and is delaying before throwing in a huge raise or re-raise. Either way you have to take into account the action that he takes before you can try to interpret what the delay means. This is crucial to understanding all tells in poker: the action + the gesture gives you the read. The gesture by itself is meaningless.

In online poker every player has a set time limit to ensure that the game stays fast. There are now a lot of lightning-fast tables where you have even less time, but the online tell remains the same as the live-game tell. If a player uses up all but the last second of his time bar and then raises all-in chances are he has a very strong hand. If he does this and only calls chances are he is weak and in two minds. The key with online time is to see if it is consistent for that player. Some players are on slower connections and it takes longer for their action regardless of their hand. If a player always lets his time dribble away he is either doing it to be annoying (this happens all the time online, and isn't a bad strategy to put others on tilt, although it is ethically dubious) OR he really has a slow conenction and cannot help it.

You have to pay attention to this in online poker. If a player typically acts instantly, because he uses preselect buttons to fold or check, and then a hand comes along where he takes a lot of time before putting in a big raise that is an online tell. He has just informed you that he has a strong hand, one that requires him to disable those preselect buttons. One also sees a lot of this in single-table Sit N Go tournaments, where a player typically takes as long as possible in the early rounds and folds nearly every hand, only to start making instant calls and raises once the table is thinned down to the bubble in terms of payouts.

Another great online tell is if you happen to notice that a player is at multiple tables simultaneously. You can find out this information at any online poker lobby and it is very valuable. All knowledge about your opposition is poker power, and the fact that this guy is currently at 3 or 4 tables "tells" you plenty. You now know that he fancies himself a serious poker player. You also know that he is very likely to play like a rock (strong-tight) because he doesn't have time to be fancy and tricky. If he is one of the blinds you should always attack with a raise. If he re-raises or even defends the blind you know he has a strong hand, but chances are he will fold more than enough times to make this move profitable regardless of what you have. This player is worth isolating and attacking aggressively because he has unwittingly revealed his style of play by being at multiple tables, plus he cannot afford to focus on you as closely as he might.

One more point about multi-table players. They frequently play in games with different stakes levels. Make sure you are at the table where the stakes are the lowest for this player. There is a good chance that if you attack him in a $5/$10 game while his attention is drawn to a huge hand at $20/$40 pot-limit elsewhere that you can pick up some very easy money.

There are a lot of other online poker tells, most of which have to do with poker fundamentals such as betting patterns or simply the various stack sizes at your table. When someone buys in short at your online table, and that amount includes cents, such as $41.25 at a $3/$6 table, you should lick your lips in anticipation. This guy is bleeding off the rest of his total chips in his account, and you should help him along with the process.

Finally, you should keep in mind that a number of online poker players are distracted while they are playing. They are at home, at work, or both, multi-tasking or trying to avoid a boring afternoon. The mere fact that you are even thinking along the lines of spotting online tells puts you at a tremendous advantage relative to the average casual online player. Gather information on these players - keep notes on them - and remember that the greatest tell in poker is predictable play, whether predictably aggressive or passive. As soon as you can predict what your opponent is likely to do you will have the best of it.


Written by By Marc Weinberg - a writer at Online Poker Insider

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