Poker tells

Tells in poker


Poker is a game of human interaction, and sometimes we can get the necessary information from our opponents by observing their behavior and manners, which show strengths or weaknesses. Such a method of getting information is called "poker tells".

Tells mean a small and perceptible change in the behavior of your rival that allow reading his hand. Such observation gives a significant advantage to the player, but only if these changes are really unconscious, rather than caused on purpose to mislead you. It is also important to correctly understand such oddities.

Knowing the basic tells in online and offline poker will help you to make better reads on your opponents, as well as make right decisions in each specific situation. There are two types of tells that based on rivals’ behavior at the table and betting methods.

So, let's first get acquainted with poker tells for online poker.

Tells in online poker

When playing online poker, it is extremely difficult to determine moods and emotions of opponents (unless you have psychic abilities). However, some actions and speed can tell a lot about the strength of the opponents’ hand.

Online poker tells

Quick bet on the river

Quick bet on the river almost always means the polar range. When a player has a marginal hand, particularly when the river card changes the strength of many hands, the player usually needs at least a few seconds to think about further actions. Conversely, if the player has strong nuts or intends to apply a pure bluff, it means that he doesn't need extra time. River cards can change the board significantly, so quick bets often mean bluffs, since monster hands requires a little more time to choose the bet size.

Quick bet on the turn to take “nobody's” pot

“Nobody's” pot is a multi-pot to which no one has shown interest on the flop or turn. Usually, this is a good time for attack, but you shouldn't bet too fast on the turn after checking the flop. Such a fast bet is more likely to mean a bluff in an attempt to take a "nobody's" pot.

Quick open-raise on preflop

Usually, this action means non-marginal hands, and the range is biased towards high aces and pocket pairs. Most players know what to do with strong hands on preflop, but as for the weak hands, it takes time to think.

Quick raise on postflop

This means a strong hand that doesn't take time to think. Draw hands usually requires time to choose between a raise or call. Weak made hands will fluctuate between a bluff raise and fold.

Online poker tells

Quick call on postflop

Quick call on postflop usually means a draw. Made hands may choose between raise or fold. As for the draw hands, many players call "by default" as soon as they hit a draw.

Quick check

Quick check almost always means a weakness, which show that your opponent is ready to give you this pot.

Slow check

As a rule, quick actions play important role and can be interpreted more accurately compared to the slow actions. Many weak players like to check slowly with weak hands, which they don’t want to fold, but at the same time, they don’t want to call big bets. By the way, this is a classic "good mine in bad game" that you can observe in offline poker, namely the player demonstrates thinking about the bet in order to prevent his rival from making bet. This category also includes slow calls (in the hope of stopping further bets).

Slow check and quick raise on a bet

This is an important addition to the previous paragraph. In this case, a quick raise will be more important, rather than a slow check. This is a clear sign of a monster hand.

Poker tells

Slow bets or raises

This is essentially the opposite of all above-mentioned tells, which means a monster hand and. Thus, the player tries to disguise strong cards with a slow action, by feigning uncertainty. Long thinking followed by all-in means a deliberate decision, rather than a bluff.

Tells in live poker

Conversations and emotions are important source of information, as well as the main difference between live poker and online. Math is still important, but behavior at the table shows strength or weakness, so it can negate math’s impact.

A single gesture or phrase gives the best understanding whether your opponent bluffs, or he has a strong hand. Thus, player’s behavior at the table is probably the most interesting clue in the form of a poker tells.

Live poker tells

Caution and restraint

This is one of the basic tips for play against amateurs. If the amateurs are dealt strong cards or hit a good combination, they concentrate with the aim to play more efficiently. Weak and “dead” hands are not interesting, so amateurs prefer to be relaxed with them.

A grim face, sighs and raised shoulders are natural signs of serious thinking and attempt to hide information.

Unexpected silence or talkativeness

If the opponent acts out of the ordinary, he probably tries to mislead other participants. Some players try to hide a bluff with weak cards in this way, or, conversely, show relaxation, disinterest in the pot.

Peeping at cards

Frequent peeping at cards in the game process says about marginal/ medium hand, which is difficult to remember. Most likely, it is off-suited. A pair or suited combination is easier to remember, however, if you have A7o, then you should remind yourself whether you hit a nut flush draw on a suited flop.

Be careful, as professional player can look at his cards deliberately, by demonstrating insecurity in his combination’s strength.  

Throwing chips

Players who throw chips in the middle of the table try to demonstrate courage and willingness to play high, but as a rule, such behavior signalizes about bluff. This manner is so-called instinct due to which the player intends to show his strength. Such trick works against those who don't analyze rivals’ behavior.

Poker tells in live poker

Using a protector

In general, players cover their cards with protector in order the dealer not think that the cards are folded. However, some inexperienced players demonstrate their hands’ strength, by protecting perspective cards with a protector.  

By revealing such habit from your rival, you will get a serious source of additional information on preflop.

“Freezing” after bet

If a player makes a bet and then freezes and isolates from the others, it means that he bluffs. This is a natural reaction to danger, so the player keeps quiet and instinctively blocks all outgoing information. In general, if you make a big bluff, it becomes more difficult to speak. You can even feel a lump in your throat.

Chip counting

If the player began to count his chips right after getting his cards, this could mean that he has a strong hand. He is ready to enter the game and thinks about bet size. The situation is similar on the flop: if a player starts counting his chips after seeing the community cards, he is ready to fight for the pot.

Bet size

A simple rule often works in offline game with a large number of amateurs, namely big bets mean strength, while small bets mean weakness. Players are intuitively afraid to risk large sums of money when they are not sure of winning.

Players’ behavior on BB

If you are on SB, pay attention to your neighbor on the left. He will be the first to get cards and the last to act on preflop. Keep watching his reaction to the actions of his rivals, as it can become a source of information about his hand’s strength. For example, if BB waits for a turn to fold cards, it's advisable to steal with a wide range.

Lean forward

Lean forward is another simple poker tell that many players can’t hide. The interest in hand forces the player to muster strength, straighten up, lean forward in order not to miss the actions of his rivals. As we know, the relaxation, distraction, hands on the nape can signal unwillingness to the game.


Understanding of poker tells is not an easy process. During the game process, you should constantly be attentive. Practice is an important thing in this matter.

Unfortunately, tells are not always as straightforward as we would like. Often you will notice several features at once for your opponent. If all these features lead to the same conclusion, then it will be easy for you to make a decision.

Things get more complicated when the tells' meaning differ. However, there is a solution even for this problem. In general, only a part of the opponent’s actions is feigned. Try to recognize which tells are deliberate and feigned, and then do the exact opposite of what your opponent is trying to convince you to do.

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Sunrise Editor
Cardmates journalist, news editor and translator since 2016. Specialization: poker news and review of events.
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