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Poker Tells: What are they and how to spot them?

Poker has become a hugely popular pastime in recent years, millions of people now love to play poker online. While the in-person game shares many similarities with the virtual version, most poker tells are something that are only relevant to players at the traditional casino poker table.

We take a look at what some of the most common poker tells are, what you can do to spot them in other players and how you can avoid displaying them yourself. 

What are poker tells?

When participating in a game of poker, a player often gives away a lot more information than they may intend to from their gestures, speech and even subtle body language. Learning how you can interpret these tells can help you to become a better and more strategic player.

For players new to the game, grasping some of the most obvious tells may be a good place to start. If you are more experienced, you may be able to pick up on a wider range of signs and make a conscious effort to avoid giving away any tells themselves.

Here are some of the top tells you should pay attention to in your next poker match:

Is the player making any eye contact?

Eye contact is a very important tool in human communication in all types of interactions, including at the poker table. Through our eyes we can communicate our feelings, level of confidence and importantly – how truthful we are being.

If a poker player is trying to avoid giving direct eye contact, there is a good chance that they are trying to be deceitful. Perhaps they are trying to give you the impression that they have a strong hand by raising, however their lack of eye contact could indicate their nervousness due to lying. 

Consistent eye contact is often a position of strength. Whereas someone looking around the room staring at the table could be purposely avoiding looking you in the eye and giving away their position. 

Of course, there is a chance that if they are experienced as a poker player they may well be bluffing and using eye contact to throw you off. 

How talkative is the player being?

Another common poker tell relates to the amount a player is talking and what it is they are saying. If the player has a lot to say and talks frequently throughout the game, this could be an indication that they are relaxed and do not feel under pressure. 

This might mean they have a strong hand to play. If they are goading you and trying to encourage you to make a bet, this could be a sign too. 

On the flip side, a lack of speech and seeming withdrawal could illustrate that they are nervous and unsure of their next move. However, this tell isn’t always that easy to spot and some people are generally more talkative than others.

That is why it is easiest to spot when playing with people you already know well, as you will already have some insight into their personality and how much they like to talk generally.

If you want to avoid displaying this tell, consistency in your speech is key. You might wish to keep talking to a minimum throughout the game and keep the tone serious and muted. This will help you to avoid giving any information away that you do not want to about how strong or weak your current hand is. 

What are they doing with their poker chips?

If your opponent takes their time grasping hold of their chips after you have called a bet, this could be a sign that they have a weak hand. If you are pretending to think their decision through and are rifling with their poker chips unnecessarily then they might be trying to deceive you into thinking they have a stronger hand.

People often like to keep their hands busy and so this isn’t always the most helpful poker tell to look out for. However, if you know the player well and they are fidgeting more than they usually do with their hands, this could indicate that there is something up.

Use this as a reminder to be more aware of your actions and body language to avoid showing nervousness.

How much attention are they paying to the game?

Not paying much attention to the events of the game and everything that is happening at the table could be an indication that they have mentally checked out and lost interest, probably because they know they are likely to win the bet.

Try to not look down at your phone too often or be distracted by other goings on in the room to avoid displaying this tell.