Four Online Poker Tells

published on 10/15/07 at 7:39 am

In a group of experienced poker players it becomes increasingly difficult to read tells and pick up on bluffs and semi-bluffs. The main reason is that the longer you spend with someone the more likely they are to pick up on your vibe and vice versa. Now you might expect that to mean it is easier to read tells but the opposite is usually true. Not only can you read their tells as time rolls on, but they can read your reading and the feedback loop continues on.

But what possible tells can you pick up online where the feedback is limited to an interface device that filters out nearly all of the analogue information available to you? How can you read bluffs and semi bluffs through a computer screen?

  1. Watch the timing carefully
  2. This applies to live poker as well as online but is especially prevalent online. Certain players have patterns for when they like to bluff, when they have a big hand and when they are chasing and all of these often have a different time frame when it’s their turn to act. Think about it for a moment. If you are suspicious of someone’s actions don’t you pause before you act? The more suspicious you are the more likely you are to try and rationalize why someone would do this or that. In an online situation this amounts to TIME. The longer they take the more likely it may be that they are considering how to flush you out. If I have a big hand but think another player may have a bigger hand I may slow down to convey suspicion. That player will then most likely go into “milk it” mode and try to coax me to call by making smaller bets. My tendency to act more slowly may create a situation in which I can try to out draw my opponent who is betting smaller to keep me in. If I have a draw or a marginal hand and my opponent thinks they have the better of me they may allow me to see the river more cheaply than if I just called quickly. However, I may wish to convey hand strength in a situation in which I perceived them to be stealing and may wish to call more quickly ie. no hesitation. Subtle variations in timing can mean different things to different players so be aware of not only your actions but of the time it takes you to make them. You will be able to give away false tells this way and pick up tells from your opponent at the same time.

  3. Pay attention to the table talk
  4. Some players like to lay out their playing strategies for you because they think they are great and want you to know it. They will tell you exactly why they played a hand a certain way and may even tell you that they always play that particular hand the same way. Some will give you the whole “woe is me” scenario. Rather than asking them if they would like some cheese with their whine, recognize that they are conveying a mindset that makes them an easy target for certain types of play in given situations. “I always get outdrawn by a flush, but at least I know when I’m beat.” If you are heads up and the flush card hits the turn bet it. They may fold to you with the best of it because their mind set tells them they just lost the hand. PAY ATTENTION! It could make you richer.

  5. Bet sizes and betting patterns are often fixed
  6. Some players always bet 8 x BB with AA, 6 x BB with QQ, 5 x BB with AK, 3 x BB with QJ suited, 4 x BB with a pocket pair etc etc etc. Ignore the specific amounts in this example but acknowledge the principle behind it. It will vary from player to player but many players like to bet and raise pre flop this way. In addition, some players will bet any low flop with high cards and some players will automatically check a big flop they raised looking to check raise or slow play/trap. I even know players that will re raise pre flop with any two cards to a pre flop raise in front of them.. Basically any pattern of betting or rebetting behaviour that follows a pattern can be noted and used at a later time to read their hand. Some players don’t have fixed bet amounts but they still have set ways of betting their hands. For example, I know a particular player who will bluff bet roughly the same all the way but will raise at turn and river when he has a strong hand or make big raises at each juncture. He plays any two cards and has often told me in chat that I have no chance of a read on him but he has never figured out why he can’t bust me. He is impossible to read in regards to knowing what he is holding but in a more general sense I know when to get out of the way.

  7. General playing styles seldom change
  8. If you are unfamiliar with generalized playing styles there are predominantly 4. Tight aggressive, loose aggressive, loose passive and tight passive. Ideally as a player you need to practice each of these styles and become comfortable in all “gears” but in the early stages it is useful to be able to recognize each style in your various opponents. The names are obvious so being able to use the categories (and the note function at your favourite sites) will help in knowing how to play a given player in general. There is a 5th category I like to call the Mixer. These are players that I have seen use more than one style. I tend to avoid these guys at all costs. They are not easy enough and must thus be considered fellow sharks. Being able to match it with each style and adjust your play accordingly will greatly assist your ability to read any opponent you face given time and enough hand histories to draw some conclusions. The more you play and the more players you encounter the better your generalized ability to read tells will become. Hopefully, this gives you a sound starting point in knowing the kinds of things to look for.

Crazy Snake is a professional sports handicapper and amateur poker player. He has made a profit year after year through his knowledge of Aussie Rules Football, NFL, tennis, and golf. He is a senior writer for

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2 Responses to “Four Online Poker Tells”

  1. babaluguts

    Feb 6th, 2009

    Hey Crazy Snake,
    Played with you for awhile today on FTP. Was nice to meet you. I read your articles after I was done playing, I am very impressed. Kudos on your writing, I really enjoyed the style as well as the content of your posts. I’ll look forward to seeing you again in the future, while being careful of the mixers. Take care and play well.

  2. babaluguts

    Feb 12th, 2009


    Do you have any advice for playing poker with your friends. Some of my pals think that in a low limit game that we should go easy at certain times because we are friends. I feel that if we are going to play that we should play hard and do our best to win. If we don’t play our best at all times any win by a weaker player isn’t really a win. I know myself that I often learned a lot more from my losses than my wins. It would be an insult to me if one of my friends took it easy on me because they felt I couldn’t afford to lose or that they were better than I was. I don’t consider this type of play to be fair to the other players involved in the game. I am very interested to hear what you might think on this topic. Good luck, play well.

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