David Lennox highlights ‘tells’ you should look out for in order to gain advantage when playing poker and shares the stories of four well-known poker players
In poker, ‘tells’ are an essential part of the game. A tell is an unconscious action or behavior that indicates a player’s strength or weakness. While it can be challenging to read your opponents, understanding these tells and how to spot them will give you an advantage in any poker game.
The following are some of the most common tells you should look for when reading your opponents:
Unusual Betting Patterns
Poker is a game of nuance, but it also pays to be aware of the obvious tells your poker opponents may provide. Unusual betting patterns are one of the most revealing indications of a poker player’s hand strength and strategic thinking.
Monitoring your opponent’s betting behaviour is key to reading their actions when you’re playing online or in a live game poker setting. Pay attention to when they bet aggressively or cautiously, measuredly or out of nowhere; these subtle changes in their strategy can give away any poker-specific tells they may possess. Identifying unusual betting patterns can often mean the difference between triumph and defeat in a poker game.
When playing poker online or in a poker game, one of the most important things to look out for is an unexplained delay in reaction. This delay can tell that your opponent is unsure how to proceed or if they should leave the poker game altogether.
If you notice an extended pause when making decisions throughout the poker game, try to understand better what your opponent may think. It could be a critical factor in deciding whether to stay in the poker round or fold. Paying attention to these delays could give you a competitive edge and help you succeed more when you play poker.
Unusual Table Talk
Unusual table talk is one tell to look out for, as it can reveal vital information about bluffing or holding a strong hand. Noticing something as small as a pause in an opponent’s usual banter can alert you that they might be devising a strategy against you.
However, being too observant of an opponent’s non-verbal behavior can backfire, so play poker with caution and don’t jump to conclusions immediately. A key element of poker is understanding how your opponents think and play poker, something only skilled players learn over time.
Tracking eye contact during poker games is a great way to gain insight into your opponents’ intentions. While playing poker online may not have the same physical presence as an in-person poker game, monitoring eye contact is still essential for players.
A necessary strategy for poker players of all skill levels is to pay attention to the eyes of their opponents. Whether in person or online poker, tracking eye contact will be an opportunity to help you make better decisions when you play poker.
For example, suppose a poker player consistently avoids eye contact immediately after placing bets. In that case, there may be something more to their action than meets the eye–they might be trying to hide their tells so that other players cannot capitalise off them.
By keeping a keen watch on your opponent’s eyes and noting changes in behaviour, poker players can better prepare themselves for high-stakes plays and increase their chances of success in poker games.
A tell you can pay attention to is what are called physical tics; any movements that appear unconscious and repeat themselves can indicate that the player is tense or anxious. If the opponent touches his ear when questioning a bet, for example, then this could be indicative of making a big decision.
Similarly, suppose the player continues to press their finger against their lip before any big decisions are made. In that case, this may signify an internal dialogue about whether to make the call or fold. Keep in mind, however, that some players may be intentionally using physical tells to manipulate their opponents; either way, it’s worth analysing and considering.
Awareness of these physical tells can help you make more informed decisions during the game and become better at reading other players.
Another tell to look out for when playing poker is chip stacking. It is a behavioural habit that many poker players have, where they subconsciously stack their chips in specific patterns during the game.
An experienced player can interpret these patterns and gain insight into how strong their opponent’s hand might be or what strategy they are trying to employ against them. It may also indicate whether a player is going all-in or raising the bet slightly.
Awareness of this behaviour can give you an edge over your opponents, as it provides you with information about their intentions without them knowing it.
Poker tells are an excellent tool for gaining an edge over your opponents during games. The key is being observant and understanding the nuances of behavior that can tip you off when your opponents have strong or weak hands or are bluffing. Pay close attention to the cues that players give, such as body language, eye contact, table talk, and physical tics.
With practice, players can become better at reading their opponents’ tells to make more informed decisions and increase their chances of success. If you’re looking to hone your poker skills holistically, start doing so today when you play free online poker at the world’s largest poker room, GGPoker.
Pictured Top – Victoria Coren Mitchell (left) and Dan Bilzerian (right); two players regularly known to cash-in on a big scale.
FAMOUS POKER FACES
A true player, this Floridian professional gambler and venture capitalist suffered three heart attacks by the age of 30. Thrown out of the US navy for swearing at an officer, Dan Bilzerian is a badboy who subsequently rebranded himself as “the gentleman of poker.” He attempted a US presidential run in 2016 and in the same year, the American rapper T-Pain named a song after him.
Bilzerian has a colossal 4 million followers on Instagram and regularly uses the site to post images of himself with female fans and of his extensive gun collection. In one, this Armenian-American commented: “My greatest fear is that someone will break in and I won’t be able to decide what #gun to shoot them with”. Bilzerian’s cars feature the number plates “SUCK IT” and “MR GOAT.”
Victoria Coren Mitchell
Oxford educated, the daughter of the humourist Alan Coren and the sister of the journalist Giles Coren, Victoria Coren Mitchell has presented TV shows for the BBC and written for The Telegraph amongst other things.
The author of the well-reviewed 2009 memoir For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker was the first woman to win an event on the European Poker Tour, the first player to win both a televised professional tournament and a televised celebrity tournament.
Coren Mitchell was also the first player to win two European Poker Tour Main Events, but amusingly she is also known for having dealt with the party crashers that attempted to attend her late father’s 2007 memorial service in London. At the time, she created a fake character named ‘Sir William Ormerod’ and tricking them into applying to attend his memorial also. She eventually relented and allowed the serial funeral crashing menaces to attend her father’s service, “gave them a drink and sent them on their way.”
Teddy Sheringham MBE
Former footballer Teddy Sheringham is best known for having played as a striker for England, Millwall, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and West Ham United.
London born and a bit of a playboy – he has dated models including Danielle Lloyd and Katie Price – Sheringham has won over £280,000 playing poker. Described as “a noticeable figure on the world poker scene,” he came 5th out of a field of 384 players at the 2018 EPT Vilamoura.
A father of three, Sheringham also appeared on the first series of the ITV show The Masked Singer as “Tree.” He was eliminated in the fourth episode of eight.
Stuart Wheeler (1935 – 2020)
Eton and Oxford educated Stuart Wheeler was once “told to stop playing blackjack for being too successful at Caesar’s Palace Casino in Las Vegas.” He played cards with Lord Lucan two nights before his disappearance, invented spread-betting on shares and gave William Hague’s Conservative Party the biggest donation in British history – a sum of £5 million.
A regular competitor in the World Series of Poker championships and known for playing bridge with Omar Sharif also, Wheeler lived in the £15 million Chilham Castle in Kent and counted ‘Model of the Millennium’ Jacquetta Wheeler amongst his trio of daughters.