Just to clarify one thing before going any further, the answer is yes – each and every poker player will have their own specific and often unique tells. But at the same time, this doesn’t mean that there are not certain tells that tend to be commonly shared between most poker players.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to poker tells is the way in which both the science and the reality of them tend to be massively different in real life, when compared to how they are portrayed in the movies. Which in turn means that if you have learned anything about poker tells from popular culture, it might be a good idea to forget it entirely.
The simple truth of the matter is that regardless of what you may have been told and be repeatedly told going forward, there really is no exact science behind poker tells. Instead, they tend to be inconsistent, contradictory and in most cases will not tell you nearly enough for you to base your moves entirely on the tells of others. It is a subject that has been studied intensively at great length and this is the same conclusion that has emerged every time.
So, does this mean that poker tells are useless? Not in the slightest – it simply means that you cannot rely on them exclusively and nor can you take them for granted as obvious as they may appear to be.
So as far as the most experienced professionals currently in the game are concerned, here’s a quick overview of just a few points and pointers to help you make sense of poker tells:
- Weak Means Strong
First of all, one of the most common poker tells among those that are new to the game is one that does tend to hold water when put to the test. The simple fact of the matter is that when you have a strong hand and would prefer those around you not to know about it, your instinctive reaction is to conceal it by pretending it is the exact opposite. The only problem being that this is a tactic and approach known and understood by anyone with any experience of poker whatsoever. Which in turn means that pulling a sour face, slumping in your chair, shrugging, sighing and generally looking unhappy with your hand will not convince anyone that you don’t in fact have a strong hand.
There’s also a relatively common tell among poker newcomers in particular which involves posture. In this instance, when and where you notice any given player suddenly straightening their posture either while placing a bet or playing a hand in general, it more often means that they have something that has stirred confidence in them. It more often than not happens instinctively and without the player realising, giving everyone else a strong indication that they are onto something big.
- Sudden Silence or Babbling
If one of the players in your group doesn’t usually talk a great deal and then suddenly starts babbling relentlessly after receiving their cards, this is often a sign that they have been dealt an extremely strong hand. And the same is also true in reverse – if there is a member of the group who is usually one of the more talkative types and yet for no apparent reason suddenly shuts up…well, it might just be that there is in fact a very good reason why they have decided to stop talking.
- Tone of Voice
The whole thing about the cliché ‘poker face’ is overrated. Besides which, you can completely hide most of your face from the other players if you choose to. However, what you cannot hide is the tone of your voice. More often than not, when a player has a hand they are confident in, they will talk freely, openly and with confidence. By contrast, when a player has a weak hand and is attempting to bluff, they may sound insecure or avoid talking entirely.
If you find yourself with an absolutely terrible hand and have yet decided not to fold, chances are you will not be in the biggest hurry to speed the hand up. You take your time, you simply wait for any indicator that it’s time to fold and proceed accordingly. However, if you are 99% convinced that you are about to make a decent amount of money, you may find yourself losing patience and compelled to speed things up. Just be warned that the moment your fellow players pick up on you losing patience, they will have a pretty good idea why this is the case.
- Tossing Chips
When you have a particularly strong hand and are willing to place a relatively hefty bet on it, you do not feel in any way compelled to display your confidence to the other players. Instead, you know your hand is good, you know you are in with a good chance and so you calmly and casually place your chips. By contrast, if you are not particularly confident about the hand you are holding, you may find yourself compelled to toss, slam or pound your chips into place with a smug look on your face. Suffice to say, those with plenty of experience will pick up on this tell for exactly what it is.
- Involuntary glance
It’s a tricky tell to pick up on given how quickly it happens, but can nonetheless prove highly insightful. Generally speaking, when amateur poker players first see their cards and realise they have a strong hand, it is extremely likely that they will instinctively glance at their chips. The reason being that they are immediately and perhaps subconsciously weighing up exactly how much they could stand to win, which in turn tells the rest of the players that they have a hand they perceive to be strong.
Last but not least, if after placing a bet a player suddenly freezes, there’s a very strong chance they are bluffing. The reason being that when you are focusing on misleading and deceiving your fellow players, it becomes much more difficult to continue talking and acting relaxed. The reason being that you are convinced those around you will pick up on one of your movements or something you say. By contrast, if you have massive confidence in your hand and have no reason to bluff, there’s really no reason whatsoever why you would freeze after placing a bet.
You might also find the following articles interesting:
- Fast Fold Poker – Should You, Or Shouldn’t You?
- Here’s Why You Really Suck at Poker
- How to Become a Better Poker Player – Nine Essential Tips