Online poker tells

Many online poker players have the mistaken assumption that they will be unable to read their opponents’ tells, because they can’t see them. Just as there are tells in a live game, there are also tells in an online game of poker. Some of the most common tells are listed below.

  1. Speed of Play – One of the biggest tells in online poker. Watch for these common tells:
    • Automatic check – sites which enable play before your turn provide a valuable source of information. Players who check off the check/fold button in advance almost always have weak hands. Beware of the player in early position who quickly checks, they may be seeing how much action they will get.
    • Automatic raise/bet – indicates a strong hand.
    • Quick bet/raise – in early or mid position, usually indicates a strong hand. This is especially true on the turn or river. Beware of players on the button who make a quick raise when everyone else has folded. This is generally an attempt to steal the blinds.
    • Quick check – indicates a weak hand, unless player check-raises (in which case, they probably have a very strong hand).
    • Slow check – indicates a weak hand. Player is attempting to make you believe they have a strong hand and are thinking of betting.
    • Slow bet – indicates a strong hand. This player wants you to think they have a weak hand, and are hesitant to bet.
    • Quick call – When a player calls your hand quickly, they’re typically trying to pretend that their hand is stronger than it really is.
  2. Number of Times to the Flop – watch for player patterns with regard to the number of times they call pre-flop. Players that see almost every flop are likely to be much looser, and play less than premium hands. Conversely, beware when playing against an opponent who frequently folds pre-flop. When they enter a hand, they are likely to have strong cards.
  3. Timing Out – If a player frequently “times out” (ie: does not act within the allotted time period, and is automatically folded), it is a good indication that they are distracted. This could mean they are playing multiple tables, or playing at work and being interrupted. Use this distraction to your advantage. They may also just have a bad connection.
  4. Frequency and Type of Chat – We’ve all played at tables where someone continually chats – even if no one is responding! Beware the times when the chatty player is quiet – this likely means he has a strong hand, and is focusing all his attention on it. Watch all player chat for clues to hand strength – I once saw a player comment – “well, that didn’t help” – after the turn card. He then proceeded to make a bet. An obvious tell that he had a good hand.
  5. Waiting for the Big Blind – When a new player joins your table, pay attention to whether or not he waits for the big blind, or posts immediately. Those players that wait for the blind are exhibiting patience – and that means they will wait for premium hands. When this person enters a pot, they likely have strong cards.
  6. Indications of Being a Beginner – Watch for signs that a player is new to online poker. For example, if a player folds instead of checking, you can be sure they haven’t played very often. New players may also ask questions about structure, limits, autoplay buttons, etc. Don’t take pity on the newbie – take their money instead!
  7. Watch for Patterns – Always be vigilant for potential patterns in play. Does a player always raise on the button? Does he make large bets whenever heads up? Is his play generally tight? Or loose? Pay close attention whenever you get to see your opponent’s cards. This will give you vital clues as to what cards they raise with, call with, etc.
  8. A player who uses time – When a weak player is taking a while to act, it generally means they have a weak hand and are debating a call. If a strong player takes extra time they usually have a strong hand but want you to think they are weak. Be sure to note the strong and weak players.
When you notice a player’s tell, make a note of it. Most online poker sites allow players to keep electronic notes on opponents. Make use of this feature! And always remember, these are guidelines only. Careful observation is still mandatory.


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