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Poker Tip: Learn to Read People’s Tells

In poker, especially in no-limit Texas Holdem, it is crucial to know whether your opponents are bluffing or telling the truth. By observing a person’s actions, gestures, and manner of speaking while at the table, in short, looking at their “tell.”

As we all know, humans are not perfect. We commit mistakes and reveal information subconsciously, which is the same when playing card games like poker, also available at

Such involuntary habit can also be an advantage in a game of expressions: purposely acting in a way that would deceive opponents. However, it might also backfire against veteran players who can see through such an act.

For newbies out there, here are five things you should know to learn how to read people:

Awkwardness at the table, a tell

It is usual for a player with a big hand to look confident, especially when you look them in the eyes. Unfortunately, it is different with those with a weaker hand or bluffing, as they tend to look away and avoid eye contact as much as possible. 

Although you might feel offended by such an act, it is also a sign that your opponent is weak—an opportunity you can take advantage of. Notice that these players, whenever they call a bluff, tend to avoid looking at anyone.

However, note that the weak person’s actions must be separate from his usual routine. His tell should be something out of the ordinary, something unusual.

For example, a player in a live poker game at OKBET looks awkward at the table. You took it to your advantage, but it turns out that that person is socially shy, which explains his behavior. So it is crucial to note that only some suspicious actions should be considered a tell.

Too quick or too slow to act, a tell

Now, if someone is ridiculously fast or slow in acting at the table, it indicates that they are “hiding something.”

For example, a player has a strong or even medium-strength hand. What he does is decide whether to bet or check for a long time. That implies he is bluffing.

On the other hand, those who are swift to check or bet are the ones who have the weaker hand. These players typically have an incomplete hand or middle- or bottom-pair-type hands that they don’t want to expose.

Meanwhile, those who are generously slow in making a call indicate that their cards are only medium-strength, if not worse. If the player has a strong hand, the perfect decision should be to raise rather than to call.

Those who bet quickly are an attempt at intimidation, hoping to encourage a fold. But a player who takes a long time to bet is considered an alpha because they think about how much they want to bet to make a call.

Handling the chips and cards, a tell

Always check a player’s hands whenever they hand out the chips or cards. If a player is new and his hands are shaking, it is clear that he is nervous.

In terms of how a player handles the chips, there are two common tells:

  • A player with a firm hand is excited to bet, showing excitement to get the chips
  • A player with a weak hand will not touch his stack.

It is crucial, however, to note that some will attempt to do the opposite to confuse their opponents.

Attentiveness, a tell

Because of the digital era, there are many distractions at poker tables. You can use it to observe who is weak and who is not.

Now that a cell phone can easily distract its owner, those who turned their attention to their mobile explain their cards are boring. However, the level of attentiveness is not a strong indicator of a person’s tell. Nevertheless, focusing on what is happening at the table will get you the critical information missed by those who redirect their focus elsewhere.

Talking, a tell

It is common to have a little conversation while at a poker match. But while talking should not be considered a tell, it should be, according to Zachary Elwood.

Elwood said a player being talkative during a hand shows signs of relaxation with his cards. However, it is also necessary to know that it might also be a bluff.

He also pointed out that those who exclaim statements contrary to what they have is a tell. Just like when a player—for example—blurts out, “I have no choice but to play this hand, I guess,” before deciding whether to bet or to call, it is an attempt to project they are weak.

Elwood’s final advice is that it is true when someone is telling something about their card in a specific manner.

Also, it is vital that players, especially the experienced ones, may purposely show their tells to deceive their opponents.

However, players frequently prefer to speak truthfully rather than falsely, so pay attention when discussing their hands.


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