Most people think that a poker game is all about the cards and the math. But there’s another critical element to the game: tells. A tell is any behavior or physical reaction that gives away information about a player’s hand.
While some players are naturally good at reading tells, others can learn how to do it with practice. And even if you’re not the best at reading tells, understanding them can still give you an edge at the poker table.
Poker Tells & Their Meanings
Here are some of the most common tells in poker and what they mean:
Avoiding eye contact is often a sign that a player is hiding something. If a player looks you in the eye, it may mean they have a strong hand. But be careful—some players are just good at making eye contact!
Your body language can tell a lot about your hand. If you’re slouching in your chair or fidgeting, it may mean you’re feeling nervous and are likely to fold.
On the other hand, sitting up straight and still may mean you have a good hand and feel confident.
Table talk is the chatter that goes on between players during a hand. Some players use poker table talk to try to psych out their opponents. For example, they might say things like, “I can’t believe you called that bet!” or “I was going to fold, but then I saw your cards, and I knew you were bluffing.”
A table talk can be helpful, but be careful—some players are just good at talking trash!
Betting patterns can also give away information about a player’s hand. For example, if a player bets big when they have a strong hand and small when they have a weak hand, that’s a tell.
Some players are very good at disguising their betting patterns, so this isn’t always an accurate tell. But if you pay attention to how players bet over time, you can start to get an idea of their betting patterns.
Weak Hand Statements
Players trying to bluff often give themselves away with weak statements like, “I can’t believe I called that bet!” or “I was about to fold, but then I saw your cards, and I knew you were bluffing.” These statements usually mean the opposite of what they’re saying—the player is likely to have a strong hand, not a weak one.
Goading is when a player tries to get another player to make a mistake by saying things like, “Come on, make your move!” or “I know you’re bluffing!” Goading can be a powerful tool, but it can backfire if the other player isn’t bluffing. So use this tell with caution.
Quicker Calls Than Usual
When a player makes a quick call, it usually means they have a good hand. They don’t want to give their opponents time to think about their next move.
On the other hand, if a player takes a long time to call, it may mean they’re undecided or are trying to bluff.
Fidgeting is another common tactic players use to bluff their opponents. If a player is fidgeting, it may mean they’re feeling nervous and are likely to fold. Fidgeting can manifest as tapping the table, fidgeting with poker chips or cards, or anything else that makes it obvious the player is antsy.
Touching the Cards or Chips
Some players touch their cards or chips when they have a good hand, as if they can’t wait to get the hand over with.
On the other hand, players who are trying to bluff often touch their cards or chips nervously, as if they’re hoping their opponents will think they have a good hand.
Tips for Reading Tells
- Now that you know some of the most common tells in poker, here are a few tips to help you read them:
- Pay attention to how players act when they’re not in a hand. This information can be just as important as how they act when they are in a hand.
- Don’t get too caught up in one tell. Some players are just good at disguising their tells.
- Try to put yourself in your opponents’ shoes. If you can understand how they’re thinking, it will be easier to read their tells.
- Keep track of the players’ betting patterns over time. Doing this will help you get a better idea of their overall strategy.
The Bottom Line
Poker tells are behavioral clues players give off to reveal information about their hands. Some tells are more reliable than others, but if you pay attention, you can start to get an idea of what your opponents are holding.
Remember, the best way to use poker tells is to combine them with other information about your opponents. For example, if you know that a player is generally a tight player, then a big bet from them is more likely to be a bluff.
Poker tells are just one part of the game, so don’t get too caught up in them. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the game! Want to practice your tell-reading skills? Try playing some poker online at GG Poker today!