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Reading Poker Tells

Since poker includes an element of deception, players are on guard for signs or signals that a competitor is being deceptive about the value of her hand. Poker tells are best described as a player's mannerisms or behaviors, conscious or unconscious, verbal or nonverbal that give away the value of her hand.

The most common poker tells involve facial expressions and eye movements and are the main reason so many players try to conceal their faces by wearing dark glasses and baseball caps. Some poker players try hard to adopt a stone-cold, expressionless poker face when they make bets in an effort to protect the true value of their hands. Other players become very animated and talkative, hoping to distract their opponents into thinking they have weak hands.

Think about the last time you tried to be deceptive. Did your voice rise up a bit? Was it hard to make direct eye contact? Was there a change on the way you sit? Did you look up or down or away from the person with whom you were speaking? Were there any actions coming from your hands? When you are not telling the truth about something, what gives your deception away? Do you get fidgety or break into a sweat? As a new poker player, you want to both watch your opponents for poker tells they might have exhibit but also be on guard that you do not adopt any clear tells yourself.

According to poker legend Mike Caro, author of Caro's Book of Poker Tells, the most common tell is "strong means weak and weak means strong." In other words, players with a strong hand may act bored and disinterested to project they have a weak hand and induce other players into calling their bet. Conversely, players with a weak hand, who might be trying to bluff, can act overly aggressive or impatient to give the impression they have a strong hand and intimidate other players into folding.

Because poker is a game that combines elements of skill, luck, and deception, expect a certain amount of emotion and unpredictability to influence every game. As a result, learning to maintain your composure at the poker table and adopt to play in different playing styles will give you a competitive edge over your opponents.

Keep in mind that poker tells are just as common in playing online poker, but take a different form, as you are not playing face-to-face with live opponents. Slow play or automatic play are chief tells online.

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