Top-6 Online Poker Tells
By Bob Garcia
In the days before the internet, poker fortunes were often won and lost based on nothing but “tells.” Poker tells are defined as a change in behavior that alerts one’s opponent to the strength (or lack thereof) of one’s hand.
However, with the growth of mostly anonymous online poker over the past few decades, it is clear that this is no longer as valuable a skill as it once was. That is not to say that getting a read on your opponent is impossible, only that the type of things you should be looking for when trying to analyze your tablemates has changed.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top-6 online poker tells and how to use them to your advantage.
There’s no faster way to get yourself marked as an inexperienced player than to repeatedly limp-call preflop. In fact, regardless of what they do afterwards, limping in early position is such a universal tell of weakness that you can instantly begin to attack anyone who employs it through the use of aggressive, in-position raising, especially if you find yourself on the button.
We’ve all seen it happen at the table; a player sets off our first alarm for weakness by limping into the pot (especially when it’s from early to middle position), calls a raise out of position and, when the flop comes Axx, they instantly check. In this situation as the preflop raiser, you could blindly bet your entire bluffing range and feel quite confident you’ll be taking down the pot an extremely high percentage of the time.
The Double Check As The OOP Raiser
One of the best times to turn up the aggression is when you are facing an out of position raiser who checks to you on both the flop and turn. This is because when you picture the range of strong hands your opponent would realistically play in that manner, you quickly realize they are (very) few and far between. In fact, 99% of players don’t have a single hand stronger than a weak top pair in their double-checking range as the preflop raiser. And if that’s the case and the board is right for it, this is an easy tell to apply some pressure to.
Triple Check As The Preflop Caller
Similar to the last tell, if you are ever facing an out of position opponent who has called your preflop raise and then checked three times, you are very likely to outperform a check of your weak, no-showdown hands by betting about half the size of the pot. Sure, you will sometimes get called down by a weak pair and lose half a bet more than you “needed to,” but over a long enough timeline, that will be paid back many times over by the opponents who have already given up and will insta-fold the better hand.
Tank River Check
Another fantastic time to let go of your fears and just click the bet button is when an opponent who has check-called the turn and then takes almost the entire clock before checking again on the river. That’s because many inexperienced players will utilize this move to feign strength in the hope of scaring their opponent into a cheap showdown. So instead of giving them what they want, use this tell against them and bet again. In fact, this is a great opportunity to size up your bet and force them into an incredibly tough decision with what we expect is, at best, an average-strength hand.
Buying In For Less Than Max Buy-in
Finally, unless they are a professional short-stack player, anyone buying in for less than the full amount is highly likely to be an inexperienced player either playing above their means or putting their last dollars on the table. That’s because good players always want to buy in for the max so that they can win as much as possible when getting into a pot with weak players. So, the next time you face off against a player who has not bought in for the maximum, pay very close attention to their actions and see if you can find further evidence that they are an opponent who should be targeted liberally.
By recognizing these six online poker tells and working to capitalize on them, you can make better decisions at the table and increase the likelihood of your long-term success.