Basic reads and tells

First Posted on Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007


Most people know or have heard of poker ‘tells’. In live games (at the casino etc) it is easy to pick up on tells from a player as they are sitting in front of you. You can observe their behaviour and deduce if they are holding a monster hand or a pile of crap. Everyone has a tell, even the greatest poker pros. You just have to find out what they are!


For example…


One of the guys who I play in home games used to wear his glasses while playing. Just by watching his movements/behaviour I picked up on a very big tell that he was unaware of. If he decided to play after looking at his cards he would do one of two things. He would push his glasses up his face by the leg (of the glasses) if he had a strong hand and by the nose-bridge if he had a weak hand. I kept quiet about this for several weeks before telling him. He never wore his glasses again while playing poker! Instead he reverted to contact lenses!!!

You might ask, ‘Why the hell did you tell him?’ Well, because basically, he’s my mate and we were both trying to improve our live game. We had agreed to let each other know what ‘tells’ we were giving out. I wouldn’t tell someone I didn’t know what their tells were. I would use that information against them as often as possible.


But what about online poker? How can you get a read on a player on the virtual felt? The answer….. Many ways!


The more you play poker the more likely you are to pick up information on players. First up though, you have to try and work out playing styles – you have to have a READ on them. That is, are they loose, aggressive or passive players; tight, aggressive or passive players. Or are they calling stations (rarely raises with very good hands and will just call bets rather than make a raise).


Just remember the famous saying – ‘If you can’t spot the fish at the table in the first 5 minutes then YOU are that fish!’


But what about the tells you are asking? Here are a few easily recognisable tells you should be able to make very easily.

If a player folds instantly when it’s their turn to act, it will be because they have used the ‘quick action’ boxes. These quick action boxes are shown after the hands are dealt and before it’s your turn to act. They normally consist of

Fold box – this instantly folds your hand when it’s your turn. If you see someone folding instantly when it’s their turn to act, they have almost certainly been using the fold box.

Call box/check box – again if someone calls or checks instantly then they have checked one of these boxes. But beware though as there is also sometimes a ‘call raise’ box too. If they instantly call someone else’s raise they could be one of the calling station players and could be holding a monster.

Raise box – If they instantly raise, it normally means they are holding quite a good hand, but not necessarily a monster hand. If they were holding a monster hand they would normally not use the action boxes, but wait until their turn before making a raise.

These quick action boxes give away a lot of information. Seeing someone fold instantly, you know they have been using the action boxes. If, after 7 or 8 hands they limp into a hand or raise it, be wary of them. It’s very likely they will have a very good hand.


Other tells you can pick up are through betting patterns. Watch how people bet at your table. So many people will bet the flop and if they get a caller will then check on the turn card. This action alone will normally tell you that they have a reasonable hand – maybe even hit part of the flop, but it’s not that great that they are willing to carry on betting it. If the caller then raises the pot with a big bet they can normally take the pot down there and then.


Another betting pattern you might see is the ‘continuation bet’. This is when a player bets the least amount possible on the flop. They might be chasing a flush or a straight, so in all reality it can be seen as an information bet. If you have tight players at the table and they have hit nothing on the flop, you will normally see them fold. If you are at a table where someone is constantly making continuation bets, it is worth your while to raise them. Not just a small raise but one of at least the size of the pot. If they are chasing the straight or flush you have to make them pay to see the next card. Obviously you are not going to do this every time a continuation bet is put out there. Pick and choose you places.


But I do have to stress that you must have all the players at your table catagorised and act accordingly when these situation arise. Following the same pattern with every player at the table is in effect, YOU giving away a tell, and a good player will use it to HIS advantage.


There are so many articles on poker tells spread across the Internet that I’ve barely scratched the surface, but its somewhere to get started. If you’ve never thought about online poker tells, go and do some reading. You’ll be surprised just how much information you can pick up. The major authority on this subject is Mike Caro. He has written plenty of material on poker tells and even has an online poker university, which includes lectures and material on the subject. He mainly writes about tells in a live game but has plenty of tips for the online game too. I have to say also that this is a fantastic site for all of your poker reading from beginner strategies to the expert levels and it’s all completely free! You can check it out here.


As usual, comments and critique are welcome.  


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