Spotting Online Poker Tells Can Make The Difference Between Winning And Losing A Big Pot
Our Guide To Click Tells In Online Poker Explains All.
Online Poker might miss the human element of shaking hands or eye to eye contact, but there is still plenty of information available to the observant player which can be used to form an accurate picture of your opponent’s hand. Used wisely – and with awareness that experienced players might deliberately ‘fake’ their tells – click-tells in online poker can dramatically improve your profits.
We have divided the tells into simple categories below and start of with the most common – timing tells. We then look at ‘pre-selection’ tells. Next bet sizing click-tells are looked at before the use of the chat box is discussed. Finally we give some examples of how to use these in combination to even greater effect.
Online Poker Tells #1 – Timing Tells
This category of online poker click-tell refers to the betting speed of your opponents. We should start with a small disclaimer – that slowness can be caused by internet connection issues or an opponent playing several tables at once… and so is less reliable than speed.
Timing tells are often the reverse of what your opponent wants you to believe. For example, a fast call of your bet on the flop is trying to look strong – as if the call was a ‘no-brainer’. In fact this is far more often a weak make hand or draw to a straight or non-nut flush. Reversing this an opponent will often hesitate before betting when trying to look weak, if you see a long pause on the river followed by a bet then your opponent is often wanting a call and ‘feigning weakness’ with the pause… if this bet is a check-raise you are almost certainly up against a monster holding.
Finally, an opponent who very quickly checks the flop after checking in the blinds pre-flop is usually weak and intending to fold. Some will also quickly make a small (even minimum) bet in the same situation. While a good size raise will usually take the pot here you should note any players who make this same move with a strong hand.
Online Poker Tells #2 – Pre-Select Buttons
Experienced players very rarely use the pre-select ‘check / fold’ or ‘call any’ buttons, however when an inexperienced opponent. Any opponent who instantly checks their big blind with the ‘check / fold’ button should be raised on future betting rounds as they are likely to give up their blinds in future. In limit games anyone instantly raising on the flop does not care what you hold, unless you have a strong hand yourself consider folding when the bet is doubled.
Online Poker Tells #3 – Bet Sizing Click-Tells
Bet sizing is the single most important tool that an online poker player has to determine the contents of an opponent’s hand. Even experienced players can fall into patterns of betting one way with a made hand and another with a draw or weaker holding. As you play more these patterns will often become obvious based on the pre-flop action and the ‘texture’ of the flop.
Again the extremes of bet sizing are than ‘weak betting = strong hand’ and ‘strong betting = weak hand’. While this is player dependant the question to ask is: what is my opponent expecting me to do? You can then disappoint them! If an opponent who always makes big raises and bets any flop suddenly limps and check-calls your alarm bells should be ringing loudly!!
Remember, at the lower levels many players believe that being ‘tricky’ is the best (or even only) way to play poker and are always looking to check-raise their opponents or suck them into playing a big pot (often at the expense of maximizing value from a hand). When someone goes to the extreme of checking when strong and betting when weak their play is very exploitable – make sure you note these opponents as you come across them.
Novice players (aka 'Fish') give away the most tells, and are often completely oblivious that their plays are transparent. You can find the sites with the most fish using my popular Fish-o-Meter tool. Check it out now!
Online Poker Tells #4 – Chat Box Tells
Reverse-psychology again features, with chat ‘click-tells’. Key here is that people rarely chat if they have a monster holding. In fact even the most talkative player is likely to go quiet hoping you will call their bet without getting distracted. Conversely a quiet player who suddenly gets chatty may well be bluffing!
A great chat tell occurs when you have a ‘table professor’ who berates people for their ‘donkish play’ in the chat. Remember that these players do not want to lose face by appearing to make a bad play themselves – you may find extra bluffing opportunities against table professors. Remember that your betting will need to tell a plausible story though – then the professor can congratulate themselves for spotting your hidden monster at the same time as folding the best hand.
Online Poker Tells – Bringing It All Together
As you gain experience at the tables the size of bets, speed of bets and chat box information will come together nicely – you will tune into the flow of a game and be able to steal (or indeed build) pots based entirely on this. As you learn it is always worth noting that these tells are opponent specific, when you see a player make a strange bet then note what they are holding, you may well be able to win a big pot months down the line based on this information.