NWP Poker Tips: Reading Online Tells

online poker tipsReading Online Tells

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In live poker play, it is necessary to learn the meaning of an opponent's physical "tells." The tell can be a facial expression, a hand or body movement, a laugh or irregularity in breathing. It could even be the way the chips are handled - the possibilities include any body language or vocal cue that regularly accompanies typical betting patterns - particularly raising. Often such clues can add up to a good read of your opponent's poker hand. Good poker players are always watching for tells.

When playing online, physical tells do not exist. This doesn't mean that online players have no tells however. There are plenty of clues online that will assist you in reading your opponent's hand. The thing to keep in mind is that decent players will often use a variety of techniques to give off "fake tells" in an effort to keep you in the dark and unable to establish any patterns. How do you tell the difference between these and actual tells? Can you use this knowledge to give of your own fake tells? The answer is a resounding yes! Just remember that an observant player will be watching your actions just as much as you are watching his.

Following is a look at the most common tells found while playing online no-limit Hold'em Sit-n-Go's. Some should seem immediately familiar, and some lesser known. With a thorough knowledge of these, you should be able to improve your decision making over time.

Pre-Select Button

When the BB insta-checks, it is very often a sign of a weak hand. The player most likely preselected the check/fold button and has no desire to play the hand any further. More often than not, a small bet on the flop will be enough to take down the pot right then and there.

Time Required to Act

Players are inclined to bet fast when they have a good hand, and more slowly with a weaker hand, although on a flop with many draws (two to a straight or flush) when a player calls very quickly he may just have a draw. If the board misses on the turn, a good size bet should be enough to push your opponent off their hand. In many instances, players who activate the time bank after you bet or raise generally aren't going to call. They are just trying to make you sweat and save face - probably for having played a crappy hand up to that point..

Avatar Selection

Some would say the image a player chooses to represent himself is a tell. And it can provide some information Generally, players with babies as avatars are family men or women, and as such, may play less aggressively. Also notable are players with dragons, demons etc. These may be aggressive players who have knowledge of the game, due to the fact that they are probably computer nerds who have spent countless hours in front of a computer screen since they were old enough to say "role playing." Such players familiarity with poker is often as great as their Dungeons and Dragons experience. Then there are the 'cross-dressers' - men that select female avatars, and vice versa. Just remember that the buxom, young virtual lady across the table may be a man looking to distract you with his cleavage shot, and thus call attention away from his poor or mediocre play.

Screen-Name Selection

Players with "AA," "AK" or dates in their names like holdmkillahAK, JacobAA87, or ted_KGB_ak22, are generally young and not very skillful. Players with names like BLUFFIN'YOU or DNKY_AGGRO may indeed live up to their chosen names, and be very loose players.

Odd Bet Sizing

A player who bets odd amounts - for example, 999 chips, rather than 1000, is trying to confuse you, which may be a sign that he is mid-bluff. While this tactic does seem to create a much larger stack visually, it's an attempt at perplexity that actually enhances clarity.


Chat can offer many clues about our opponents. Players who chat after a bad beat generally are on tilt and will be playing less then optimally. Players who verbally attack other players will likely try to do the same to their chip stacks. They will be overplaying their hands and are easy targets if you find yourself with a real hand and position on this player.

Shows her Hand

Why reveal a hand if you don't have to? There are rare instances where this might contribute to table image, but for the most part, the player showing they had a strong hand after a round of folds, or showing a bluff, is simply trying to throw you off your game, tilt you, or encourage you to bet differently than you normally would next time. You should try to ignore these deliberate and misleading tells, and concentrate on the hands you see at showdown. Using the instant hand history option will give you many clues to your opponent's range of hands, and the way they play them.

Betting Patterns

Players have an inclination to bet smaller with a weak holding, and bigger with better cards. For an experienced player, knowing this can be used against the average player. Sometimes it is beneficial to bet small when holding a monster hand. By doing this, you are giving a fake tell and may get re-raised thus increasing the pot. Be sure not to do this every time though, or your opponents will recognize what you are up to. It is also not advisable to do this if there is a possible straight or flush on the board, as a weak bet will encourage your opponents to chase, and possibly catch.

Watch position moves carefully. Players frequently attempt to steal the blinds from the button. If you suspect this is the case, it's time to fight back, and re-raise the button. A player who limps in early position and then re-raises after being raised is almost always holding a monster hand.

Once you have a tell on a player, make sure to take notes to assist you in identifying their habits and weaknesses the next time you play them.

Understanding online poker tells will help you to identify your opponents' weaknesses, avoid their traps, and deprive them of information about yourself. Good luck on the felt!