Common Poker Tells and How to Spot Them

Check out these common poker tells and larn what they mean

Have you seen the poker movie Rounders? Teddy KGB is the film’s antagonist, a villain with one of the easiest to spot poker tells ever seen. It is simplified for the silver screen, tells are never this obvious, but players do give off tells.

Teddy KGB’s tell to end all tells is quite ridiculous and involves Oreo cookies. He splits an Oreo and looks at it whenever he is bluffing. He puts the Oreo to his ear before eating it when he has a very strong hand.

Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, realizes this and takes all of Teddy KGB’s money.

The majority of tells are not obvious. They player would be bust in next to no time if they were. That doesn’t mean players don’t give off tells, quite the opposite. You just need to know potential tells and how to spot them.

Common Poker Tells: Look Into My Eyes

They say the eyes are a window to the soul and tell a lot about a person. Humans naturally break eye contact whenever they’re uncomfortable in a situation. Why would someone be uncomfortable at the poker table? Because they’re lying is the most common reason.

Some top poker players always stare you down when they’re deciding on their action. Watch Mike “Timex” McDonald when he plays poker, he has an almost trademark stare that is enough to scare opponents into giving away information.

Not all lack of eye contact indicates deception. Make sure the eye movement, or lack of, is out of the ordinary. This is because some player naturally look away regardless of their strength to avoid giving off tells.

Pay Close Attention To Timing Tells

The better players are more aware of potential tells they give off, especially timing tells. They take the same amount of time to bet or raise regardless of their hand strength.

Not everyone does this, however, because they can’t control their urges. Players who take extra time before checking or betting tend to have a medium strength hand or draw. The extra thinking time is them being unsure what to do with their holding. It’s also a ploy when players are very strong. Pausing conveys the image they’re unsure what to do so could be bluffing.

Conversely, a quick check is usually a sure-fire sign of weakness. The player decided what to do immediately and has all but given up on the hand.

Fast bets also tend to be weak hands. Little thought went into trying to extract value and the quick bet is designed to be intimidating.

Hands Are Often More Reliable Than Eyes

We already ascertained people’s eyes give away a lot of information, but hands can give off even more tells. Being sat there with a strong hand sends a surge of adrenaline through a person’s body. This often leads to shaky hands, which are almost impossible to control or fake, especially in inexperienced players. Expect a player with shaky hands to be extremely strong.

Keep an eye out for how and when an opponent handles their stack. Some players instinctively grab some chips from their stack when they have a hand they want to bet with. The opposite is true also.

Look for tells into how they handle their cards. Some players prepare themselves for folding in an obvious manner. Have they look at their hole cards when the flop came down? Did they do this previously and showdown a strong or weak hand?

Listen To What Is Being Said at the Table

Poker players love to talk; it is a social game after all. The problem with table talk is skilled players can gain information from what is said. “Loose lips sink ships” is how one popular saying goes.

Players often start blabbing their mouths when they’re weak as they’re trying to convey they’re relaxed and actually strong. Likewise, a talkative player who suddenly clams up is likely to have a strong holding.

Talking tells tend to be what some players call false tells. This means they’re the opposite of what you’d expect. For example, someone saying “I suppose I better play this hand” is probably strong. They’re attempting to pretend they’re resigning themselves to play a hand.

Conclusion

No poker tells are 100% reliable on their own. Experienced players become experts in giving false tells to induce more action. Take notes of how players act in different situations and note what hands they show or don’t show.

Piecing together all the information helps build a profile of your opponents. Make sure your information is accurate and never tell an opponent you’ve learned their tells! Keep that to yourself and use them to take their chips.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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