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Online Tells

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Tells are little clues players give off unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally if they want to throw you off) about the status of their hand. Many live tells involve the physical reaction of the player to their hand or the action of the game. Even though you can’t see the other players when you’re online, there are online tells you should be aware of. Here are some you can look for (and be careful not to do yourself):


Pay attention to the chat box there are ways to gain knowledge about a person’s hand based on what they say (or don’t say). If a player who is usually very chatty suddenly becomes quiet, they might have a strong hand and are focusing their attention on the game, so be careful. If a player becomes aggressive in their tone, they might be trying to bluff and are intimidating you into folding. You can also ask indirect questions about a player’s hand to see if their hand is strong or if they’re bluffing. Generally, if a person who normally uses the chat box doesn’t answer your questions, they might be bluffing it’s a human tendency to stiffen up when lying/bluffing. If a player responds to your question with ‘trash talk’, they might be hiding a strong hand keep an eye on them.


Online poker rooms give you a certain amount of seconds to respond before giving you a reminder to act. If you don’t act, depending on the site, you’ll automatically be folded or all of your chips will be played (called ‘all in’) folding is more common. Players who take a long time to act probably have a strong hand as the player is either calculating their move or they’re trying to make you think they’re not too sure about their hand. If a player responds too quickly, they might have a weak hand. You should make a mental note of what cards players played quickly or slowly with so the next time it happens, you’ll have a better idea of what speed they bet at with what cards.


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If you haven’t played online poker yet, you probably don’t know what the auto play/check boxes are. Take a look at figure 1 they’re at the bottom of the image: Fold, Check/Fold, Check, Check/Call, Bet and Raise Any. These options change if someone has bet (nobody has bet yet in this example). By ticking off one of these buttons, you’re telling the program what action you want to do automatically when it’s your turn. When the action comes to you, whatever you ticked will happen in a split second it’s really that fast. Be aware that when you or another player use this feature as it may give clues to your or their hand.

If a player ticked Raise Any, you know that they didn’t need to think about raising, so they must have a strong hand (or are bluffing). If they ticked Check, they might have an average hand since they’re not interested in getting too many chips in the pot. If they click Call Any, they might be drawing to a straight or flush or some other hand that hasn’t come up yet, but they’re not quite ready to fold.

Figure 1 Example of auto buttons at the bottom of the image.


Be careful not to use the Check/Fold button too much if several players before you all checked, they probably have weak hands, which is a great time for you to bluff or semi-bluff. (The Check/Fold button will automatically check when the action comes to you and nobody has bet yet, or it will fold your hand when it’s your turn if someone has made a bet.) Also, an instant check is a sign of a weak hand, so don’t use the auto Check button too much. Good players will be aware of this, so if you do have a great hand and want to throw people off, use the auto Check button so they don’t think your hand’s that strong. If you bet strong in the next betting round, they’ll probably call your bet. (Remember, you want to get as many chips in the pot as possible and a check is a good way to keep people contributing to the pot and not scare them into folding.)


Keep an eye on how often a player folds, and if you can see their hand that they mucked (folded), assess how strong the hand was. Conversely, if a player calls a lot, make a note of how strong the hands they play are. You’ll probably find the player who calls a lot is doing so with average hands you can get them to call your bets and possibly raises since they’re loose players and don’t fold as much as they should. For the players that fold a lot, be cautious of them if they bet and/or raise heavily they probably have a very strong hand.


When you first sit down at an online table, you have to post a big blind if you want to play regardless of where your position is in relation to the dealer button. Players who want to play immediately can post the big blind and start playing. This can be a sign of impatience and may indicate a loose player since they don’t have the patience to wait for a good hand. The opposite holds true for players who do wait until they’re in the big blind position before they’ll post it these are either patient or cheap players (or both!) and both a great qualities for online poker. If a player waited to post the big blinds, they’ll probably also wait for good hands and if they’re cheap, they won’t want to throw their chips away on average hands.


It is possible to play more than one hand at a time in online poker. Some sites will let you do a search to find out how many tables a certain player is actively playing. If you figure out that a player is playing multiple tables, you can easily bluff them since they’re not paying 100% attention to your game and they typically play straight games since they’re too busy to think about bluffing or being bluffed. If that player takes a while to respond when it’s their turn to act, they might have a very strong hand at another table that’s diverting their attention away this is the best time to bluff them into folding.

Start putting these tells to work today by signing up at Poker Stars. They’re one of the busiest poker sites on the internet, and once you start playing online poker, you’ll soon realize that a busy site means you won’t be caught waiting for people to play. They have real and play money tables where you can practice and play Texas Hold ‘em, Omaha, Stud and Badugi. Once your skills are developed, try your luck in an online tournament (some with buy-ins as low as a penny, or even FREE). They also have dozens of avatars (display pictures) to choose from, making this a more personable site than others on the internet. Certainly worth a look!

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