10 Simple Poker Tells You Can (Usually) Bank On

Chips

Tells and poker – a pseudo-science which sometimes seems to work and sometimes seems to not hit the mark at all.

To start with, most amateur poker players have the wrong ideas about which tells to look out for.

Have you ever seen Rounders and Teddy KGB eating an Oreo? Well, Matt Damon obviously could tell by the way Teddy ate his cookie exactly how strong his hand was.

That's just one of the examples that just don't work outside of movies. In most cases tells are contradictory and inconsistent and do not reveal enough information to solely base a play on.

Many experts have written books and articles about tells. Most of them are too broad to actually be useful or they're too narrow and you'll rarely find an opponent exposing this specific tell.

Top 10 Poker Tells to Trust

PokerOlymp's Jan Meinert shares 10 tells which (at least in most cases) "work" -- if you're playing against weaker players who don't have a lot of live experience under their belt.

1. Weak Means Strong

poker tells
A gloomy face can be revealing.

This is one of the best known poker tells and it's seen very often among new players.

Players that act weak usually have a strong hand. Sighing, shrugging or a gloomy face very often indicate a very strong hand.

It's a natural instinct when attempting to conceal a big hand to try and appear weak. A player shrugging and raising usually has a strong hand, so don't fall for that trap!

2. Straightened Posture

A player who straightens his posture to play a hand or while in a hand usually has something he's at least interested in. More often than not he even has a very strong hand and is getting ready to pull out the big guns.

3. Abrupt Silence or Flood of Words

A player who normally talks a lot and suddenly becomes silent usually has been dealt a very good hand. The same holds true for players that usually don't talk but all of a sudden start to babble after getting dealt a hand.

4. Sound of the Voice

Players wearing hoodies or sunglasses might feel protected from giving away tells, but in fact they're not.

Often the sound of their voice tells a lot about their hand. Players holding a strong hand have an easier time talking and answering questions.

Players that bluff are often scared to give away a tell and sound insecure.

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5. Impatience

A player suddenly waking up and getting impatient during a hand often indicates a strong holding. Asking questions like "who's turn is it" and prompting the dealer to continue indicate the player is in a hurry to rake in a nice pot.

real poker tells
A simple chip on the cards could say a lot.

6. Hole-Card Protection

This tell is really simple: Some players actually fall for the trap to protect their hole cards (by putting a chip on top of them) if and only if they are at least fairly strong.

This tell should by all means be exploited to the maximum.

7. Splashing Chips

A player pounding out a bet or splashing chips very often has a weak hand and is trying to cover up for this by acting extra strong.

If a player uses a little bit more force than he usually does when placing his chips, he's usually making a bluff.

8. Fumbling and Glancing

A player who, after seeing his hole cards, immediately glances at his chips or starts to fumble with them usually has a very strong hand. Right after seeing his hand he's thinking about the upcoming bet sizing and thus involuntarily looks at his chips.

The same holds true if a player looks at his chips right after the flop has been dealt. It means the flop has helped his hand and he's getting ready to fire up the action.

how to read poker tells
Beware of the freeze.

9. Bet Sizing

Here's a tell that works without looking at the other players: Weak players often have problems with bet sizing and their bets show exactly how strong their hand is.

Big cards mean big bets, small cards mean small bets. It's that simple.

If a player repeatedly bets a tiny fraction of the pot with his weak hands, you can be sure he has a monster when he suddenly pulls out the big guns.

10. Freezing

A player who freezes after placing a bet is bluffing very often.

It's not easy to talk when you're bluffing. You're afraid to trigger a call by something you say or with a gesture. So a player who is bluffing often refrains from talking and moving, sometimes even breathing.

This tell also works the other way around: a player who is very talkative after placing a bet usually has it.

He's trying to lure in a call by any means possible and trying to keep you interested in your hand.

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Beware of False Poker Tells

False poker tells are just as common as true poker tells at a poker table so differentiating between the two is just as important as spotting tells in the first place.

There are two different types of false tells you will come across, the first of which is inadvertent.

Unconscious Poker Tells

Player
Shaking hand - real or false tell?

Shaking Hands

When a player's hands shake, it's a great tell that they have a very strong hand. People get so excited and nervous when they have the nuts that they can't control the shaking of their hands.

This tell has saved many a player countless chips and kept them from making a move against a monster.

It may seem odd that so strong a tell is possibly also a false one but, more often than not, that's exactly what this tell is.

Players' hands will shake for a wide variety of reasons aside from having the best hand.

Nerve damage, the yips, muscle strain, a variety of issues stemming from old age and countless other mental and physical conditions can cause this. There are also players who get so nervous while playing any hand that their hands shake.

To get a read from a tell you have to observe a change from that player's state of normal. Does the player's hand shake when he's not even in a hand? Or is he solid and calm as a rock?

So, this tell is only actually a tell for the one type of player - the person who's normally steady-handed. If this is the first hand you've seen her play in you should take note of the shake but don't make any choices based purely on that.

They Might Just Suck at Poker

This may be the false tell that has tricked more players than any other.

real poker tells
His big hand might not be a big hand at all.

It happens when you're in a pot with a player about whom you know very little. The way they play and the plethora of tells they bleed leaves you 100% certain that this player has a very large hand.

You've read multiple articles true tells and have no question that your read is correct; the player has a very big hand. But the problem with your read is best summed up in the words of Sir Albert Einstein: "Everything is relative."

If your opponent is brand-new to the game, or just really sucks at it, what they truly believe is a monster might be as little as a single pair. Some new players are convinced they have a huge hand holding a pair of aces with four to a straight and flush on the board.

Just because they think they have a huge hand doesn't mean they actually do. So it's better to let yourself get bluffed than to be wrong and lose your whole stack.

Deliberate False Poker Tells

false poker tells
Every table has a Doc Hollywood

Watch Out for Poker Actors

The second type of false tells come from the actors. Every table has at least one Doc Hollywood. Usually these players are easy to spot.

Any obviously strong player with large amounts of poker experience who suddenly exhibits obvious tells from the first half of Caro's famous Book of Tells is suspect.

If you can label a player as an actor you just have to do the opposite of what you would if you took the tell at face value. If an actor starts showing a tell that would normally induce you to fold, then that's exactly what they want you to do.

Make it your mission to disappoint them. Actors are always the players who think that they're the boss of the table and that no one can read them. They think they can fool all other players into believing whatever they want them to believe.

These players are the most fun to bust and often carry enough ego to rebuy due to an absolute need to get back their money. Take them down once and they'll set their sights on you, setting themselves up to get knocked over repeatedly.

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Choose the Best Reaction

If the false tell is the action it's imperative you choose the best reaction. The simplest solution is to always use the betting story as your ground zero.

If the tell you're getting deviates from the theme of the betting story, you have to decide which one is telling the truth. When in doubt, go with the betting story.

The betting actions people make are almost always done accurately and with a purpose. It's how they perform those actions that can be misleading.

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