Just because you’re playing poker online doesn’t mean other players won’t tip their hand with a few tells.
You might be thinking about the final scene from the iconic poker film “Rounders” and visualizing an underground game for big bucks. The scene focuses on one of the most interesting aspects of poker: physical and verbal tells. In the scene, Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott has finally picked up Teddy KGB’s (played by John Malkovich) tell. Hi movement gives away the strength of his hand and McDermott proceeds to mop the floor with his opponent.
Despite the famous scene, many poker players overthink other players’ movements and verbal cues. That’s not to say real tells don’t exist; crafty players will always be watching and listening to opponents and how they play in certain situations. Even gambling online, players can get a feel for how players are playing a hand. Here’s our advice on a few things to keep in mind to recognize tells while playing online poker.
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1. Timing tells
This is one of the most basic aspects to consider when playing online. Let’s say you’re involved in a tournament and making a deep run through the field. You make a nice bet on the river and another player tanks before folding. Or maybe he tanks and then raises. Is that player really thinking about his moves and had a good hand when he folded? Or was he just doing a little multitasking and making a sandwich while he played?
Unlike at a live table, you really don’t know just how distraught he was to fold or how positive he felt to raise. You really have no idea what he’s doing. However, observant players will remember this situation and notice how he plays hands in the future. You can take that in context if you’ve watched the guy play a hundred hands. He may take a little while and you see that he’s weaker in these types of “long-thought spots” before he tanks and calls, or tanks and folds.
On the other hand, he may usually act quickly and now he’s acting slowly. Make note of these types of plays for future clashes.
2. Bet sizing
This may be one of the most important tells for online players. Every player has to make a bet size and keeping track of how players bet might give a keen player some information about his opponents. If a player decides to bet small but usually bets big, or bets big and usually bets small, he may be giving off some information about his hand. Is the big bet to try and get you off your own hand or any potential draws? Is a small bet meant to trap other players in the hand or is it a feeler bet to see if his marginal hand might be good?
These situations are what players must be able to pick up on to get information. Understanding betting patterns is one of the many things the best online poker players in the world do well because it’s one of the best available pieces of information a player can get. It’s important to know how big your opponent is betting, so watch him over a sample size and eventually you can ascribe a certain amount of strength or weakness to his hand given that history.
3. Holding hands
Keep an eye on opponents and how they play certain hands and in what situations. Is a player aggressive or passive with certain hands? Does one player tend to call raises with hands like a weak-ace hand? Take note of these types of holdings and use these plays to your advantage.
In addition, keep an eye on how other players actually get into pots. Aggression and passivity in general says something about how that player plays hands. Players who limp into a lot of pots tend to be weaker players, and savvy players can accumulate some of those chips with some well-timed raises. This is more common in lower buy-in tournaments and cash games.
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Poker tells may be something many players consider to be more a part of big glamorous events like the World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour. But even online players in smaller-stakes games would do well to consider them.
And of course, beyond tells, online poker is mostly about math and frequencies. Players who work hard, pay attention, and have a good fundamental understanding of the game are much more likely to be successful.