Reading players – Poker Tells

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tadas PeckaitisTadas “My Poker Coaching” Peckaitis

While more and more players are turning to live games, I decided to revisit a crucial topic for live play – poker tells.

Tells can be a powerful source of information if used correctly and help take your game one step further. However, poker players often miss the opportunity to build their stack by not noticing some obvious signs. I will just touch the surface and highlight the most common and trusted signs in live poker games.

Watch for poker tellsTiming

Timing is very player dependent, but when you spot some tendencies, you are likely to have a dead-on tell. People cannot change their habits very quickly, and you can use that to your advantage.

If you see someone taking a lot of time with weak hands and then checking, while checking much faster when trapping with a strong holding, it is not likely to change anytime soon. So, if you notice players taking different amounts of time to make decisions with strong and weak hands, it will be one of the most reliable tells you can use.

As a rule of thumb, when people think for an extended period and then check, they (usually) have a pretty weak or medium strength holding and almost never a nut type hand.

When someone bets big almost at once, it means they have made up their mind about betting before even seeing the following cards, and it (usually) indicates strength.

Bet sizing

Similar to the timing tell, sizing is also player dependent and is essential to use against weaker players. Regulars can easily manipulate bet sizing and will tend to remain fairly balanced unless they’re trying to trap you, but either way, you should not go out of line versus professional or more experienced players.

However, when you are up against recreational players, you can get pick up on a few signs. First, they are very unlikely to bluff with small sizing so if you face lower than ½-pot size bet, most of the time, it is going to be for value.

Second,  when you face a huge bet on a dry board, the vast majority of the time it indicates strength. However, this is not the case on connected boards so you should not make your decision based on bet sizing in that situation.


I can assure you that very few players talk while they are running a big bluff. Most likely, you will see them trying not to show any signs of weakness and staying quiet. They don’t want to risk talking and giving up the strength of their hand with a shaky voice, so many prefer not to say anything.

Therefore, when someone starts talking while in the hand, they are much more likely to be confident with their holding, and it is (usually) an indication of strength.

All things considered

Obviously, you should be aware that poker tells can give you a lot of information about recreational players, but not so much about regulars. Moreover, some of them can be faked, so you want to treat tells  as extra information without making your decision based entirely on a perceived tell.

There are many other signs you can notice and take into consideration both live and online. Therefore, I encourage you to learn more about poker tells and make more informed decisions with that extra information.

Send me your thoughts, comments or questions!

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