Poker is such a great game! On every hand, there is the constant battle between the forces of straight betting and the forces of bluffing. In this article, we’ll describe some of the common online poker tells.
Tells Tell a Lot, But Not All
The more sophisticated a poker player gets, the better they are at masking tells. That is, there are players who make you think that they are telegraphing a tell when they are simply trying to fool you into thinking that. So, take what we say here with some grains of salt. There definitely are discernible tells but the concept of tells is not foolproof.
Some players are so new to the game or have played for a while but still have not developed any true betting skill so that you can’t read them perfectly. They seem to be showing you a lack of confidence which would mean that they are bluffing when in reality they are just not skilled enough to sit still and look straight ahead.
Maybe they have ADD!
Fidgeting is one of the most common tells but here we’ll start with tells that we can’t see.
Online Poker Tells
The first and most obvious aspect of “reading” an opponent in an online game is that you don’t see them. Because we can’t see them we need to “observe” them in a different way. Here we’ll introduce the concept of inductive reasoning.
There are two kinds of logic: deductive and inductive. Inductive reasoning comes from seeing the same action or activity repeated again and again. The sun will rise in the east. This is the classic example of inductive reasoning.
In online poker, we need to closely observe the betting behavior of all of our opponents in order to make a better deductive decision at some point. Deductive reasoning is what we usually mean when we talk about logic but in online poker, as in many aspects of life, we make deductive decisions based on inductive reasoning.
If an opponent takes a lot of time deciding what to do once and then wins the pot, we can’t be sure that the next time he or she takes a lot of time they are also trying to appear to have a relatively weak hand when in fact they have a strong hand.
However, if they do this often, even if they don’t win every hand with this ploy, since good hands often get beaten, we can reasonably conclude that when they once again take a long time to decide what to do in a hand that we have money in that they have a better hand than they are letting on.
There is a similar action called the check-raise. Some really good players use the check-raise technique to completely befuddle opponents. But in an online game, if you’re playing with opponents who are of relatively equal skill as your own, you should be able to figure out after seeing an opponent check-raise a few times if it’s a bluff or the real thing.
Take the Time to See
Both of these examples reinforce the idea that in order to sense a tell in an online game, you need to take your time. At the outset of a game, you might get fooled and fold a better hand. But every time you do so you need to learn something about your opponent.
Playing Too Fast
The opposite side of the slow play coin is the excessively fast bettor. Here, again, you need to know something about your opponent since overly fast play can both signal a strong hand or a bluff.
When it signals a strong hand, it usually means a very strong hand, at least a flush if not more than that. When it signals a bluff, it usually means that the payer is trying to get you to fold as quickly as they bet. In a bluff, the player may have a decent hand but they think that you might have them beat so they bet quickly hoping to scare you away.
A good example is when the player has ace high and thinks you have a low pair. A quick bet comes out in the hope that you’ll be scared away from the pot. You need to know how much you need to bet to stay in the pot and how much the opponent has to risk a bluff.
This is the guy who has seen Phil Helmuth on YouTube complaining endlessly about how bad luck seems to follow him around or his opponents are too stupid to play with the great one. This guy sees those clips and is so impressed by them that he tries to channel his inner Helmuth in a normal online game.
The more he complains, the more likely it is that he is losing and doesn’t have anything worth betting on.
There is a way to bemoan bad luck and a way to telegraph that the player is having a really bad day. If he starts to play very tight after a bad beat or a short losing streak, that signals that he has lost confidence in his hands. At this time, you can probably bluff them out of a pot but if they come back and stay in a hand into the turn, it usually signals that they have finally hit a good hand.
Talking Too Much
This is not the same as complaining too much. Some players reveal a lot about themselves by suddenly chatting up the chat box. If it happens during a particularly complicated hand, it usually signals that they are trying to distract you with chatter.
A quiet player should stay quiet especially if they have a good hand.
The same holds true for a chatty player who suddenly goes quiet. However, the quiet to chatty tell is a lot more common than the chatty to quiet tell. When a player is the chatty sort, he or she usually can’t stop themselves. So, you look for a quantitative or qualitative change in the kind of chatter they send.
It is always possible to outsmart yourself by discerning tells where there are none or trying to fool an opponent with a false tell. The best way to play winning poker online is to play smart and change your style just enough so no one can read you.