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What is a tell in poker | How to read people in online poker game

  • Published Date June 15, 2021
  • By Admin


Online Poker Tells: How to Read People in Online Poker

Mastering the art of tells is crucial in the game of poker. Learning to spot cues and identifying them when playing the game is a crucial piece of the puzzle for acquiring information on your opponents. Being proficient in reading online poker tells allows you to observe and read your opponents’ behaviour and regulate your behaviour so that you don’t give out any information while playing the game. Learning the betting pattern of your opponents could be an ace in the hole if you want to increase your chances of winning drastically. 

What is a tell in poker?

Poker tells are gestures or actions made by players in response to a given situation. These mostly subconscious tells can result from the player trying to hide their hand’s strength or weakness, because of uncertainty or insecurity, or just because of emotions like anger or fear. By being a keen observer can decipher them and use them to gain an advantage over an opponent.

However, reading poker tells is a skill that is difficult to master. While many players respond in the same way, the main technique is to learn to differentiate the meanings of the actions as well as their implications. After all, the same actions do not always imply the same thing from one player to the next.   

But what about when you are playing the game online? Suddenly you are in a different situation. All those standard tells go out the window as you cannot see, hear or interpret your opponents. If you are used to looking for those particular tells, you may feel helpless...but if you learn virtual poker, you can put yourself back in the seat of the advantage. So, let’s take a look at the top 5 ways to get a better read on your opponents.

Timing Tells

When playing poker on the internet, every room has a fixed number of seconds that every player has to respond to. Most of the rooms give 30 seconds or less. Usually, a quick bet is a sign of weakness, and a delay in action is a sign of strength, as your opponent is calculating his strategy with what they think to be a huge hand. For instance, when my opponent calls me quickly, this tells me that they took no time to consider other possibilities like raising or folding. This implies that my opponent has a mediocre hand, such as a middle pair or a draw. Thus, keep track of how long your opponents take to complete their actions and make a mental note of it. If you get an opportunity to see their cards at showdown, try to figure out what they “fast bet” with and what they “slow bet” with. 

Poker Bet Sizing Tells 

Bet sizing is one of the most common and vital tells. Regular online poker players would balance their stake levels with a mix of diverse hand strengths, whereas newbies tend to use small bets for one style of hand (bluffs or monsters) and big bets for another. For instance, some players use large-sized bets with their strong hands (expecting to win more when called), and some use the small size almost always with weaker hands (expecting to bluff cheaply or get a quick showdown with a marginal hand). There are some players who do the opposite. They bet big as a bluff (to force more folds) and small with value (to get called more often). The issue with both these approaches is that your value bets won’t get called, and your bluffs will not work anymore if your opponents figure out your playing pattern.. Instead of being the player who exhibits these sizing bets, be the one who recognizes them.

Buying in for unusual amounts and auto-rebuy feature 

Another online poker tells that poker players give off is the size of the stack and whether or not they use the auto-rebuy feature. Skilled players buy-in for the maximum amount at an online poker table, which is generally 100 big blind (in No-Limit Texas Hold’em games). On the other hand, amateur players are usually not adequately bankrolled. They will often buy in for some random amount that is generally less than the limit. So, you can be pretty sure that this is the entire bankroll that they will gamble with. When I see something like this, I immediately identify them as fish and attempt to get into pots with them as often as possible. Additionally, in contrast to regulars, they don’t use auto-rebuy features when their stack size becomes less below a specific amount.

Online Poker Chat Feature Tells

When playing virtual poker, I am not a huge fan of using the chat box, as I feel it can be disruptive and sometimes exposes undesirable comments. A professional poker player will never say anything as their chat box is turned off. On the other hand, a player who normally chats while playing hands suddenly becomes silent; look out! You can guarantee that he is holding a good set of cards. Your opponent is spending every ounce of focus on his cards and getting the biggest pot possible. However, if one of your opponents is betting and becomes hostile in the chat box, they might be bluffing and hopes that his show of confidence would help him in bluffing you off the table.

Passive Play in Online Poker 

Another common approach to reading players when playing online poker and identifying an amateur player is by passive play. By passive play, I mean calling lots of preflop and postflop and folding their hands without going to a showdown. This poker strategy will severely reduce your red line (or non-showdown winnings) and is normally not an advantageous method to play the game. On the other hand, a player who plays frequently will be much more likely to make aggressive three - and four - bets before the flop. They will also be more likely to stay aggressive after the flop and with more betting, raising, and bluffing. 

You may also read about: The preflop hands in poker game

Analyze Hand History 

When playing poker in a traditional casino, you cannot look back at  hand and study what happened on each street. Nonetheless, digitally, you can easily do so by just clicking on the “Hand History” button. As you probably assume, being able to review past hands can give you valuable information that you may have overlooked. Apart from studying your hands, you can also see what cards your opponents showed and how they played a specific hand without mentally repeating everything. This is a great benefit compared to playing in a land-based casino.


Although we never see our opponents when playing poker on virtual poker sites or mobile apps, almost all players still give off a few tells. These cues are an example of how little things matter a lot in the game of poker. They can give you an idea of what kind of players they are and information about their hand strength. Identifying the various tells and planning your gameplay as well as online poker strategy  accordingly gives you a considerable psychological advantage, necessary to win the game. Remember, while reading others, someone may be observing you as well. So, just as crucial as it is to read your opponents, it is also essential to control or hide our tells as well. 

However, recognizing online poker tells can only make you a marginally better player. What matters most is the kind of poker game skills and strategies you think of. These cues are common and generally reliable, but keep in mind that they are not rules of any kind and exceptions are always there. 

The above-mentioned poker tells are perfect poker strategies for beginners. You can practice these by playing online poker for free and watch the play and betting patterns of your opponents. Try and guess what hands they might be holding and when you see their cards at the end, see how close you were to guess it correctly. At first, you will get several things wrong, but with time and practice, you will become surprisingly accurate, and it will then play a big role in your game.

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