Spotting physical tells and behavioral changes during poker matches can give you the upper hand over your opponents. Players telegraph the strength of their hands through their body language, facial expressions, and betting patterns.
Knowing the reasons behind these tells helps you detect bluffs or actual threats, raising your chances of winning sit-and-go poker prize pools. We have listed the most common poker tells and broke them down into different categories: eye, hand, body, behavioral, and betting tells.
Eye Poker Tells
Eye-related poker tells are the most common. After all, we tend to stare at players in their eyes. Therefore, eye tells are often the first hints that something’s up.
Eye contact tells occur after placing the blinds or calling them. Players tend to feel confident and make eye contact when they have a good hand or avoid their opponents’ gaze when they have a weak hand.
Watch how people make eye contact after making a large bet or going all-in. Confident players regularly meet others’ gaze. People with trash hands trying to bluff and keep their blinds actively avoid looking at players across the table.
Conscious players with a weak hand can make people think they are a threat by actively looking at their opponents. You also have players with a great hand who pretend to look away from their opponents, only to bait others into making large bets.
When your opponents’ eyes are all over the place or when they are focusing in one place on the table, they are subconsciously letting you know how they feel about their chances of winning.
Pay attention to everyone’s eyes when they called or raised the blinds. Eyeball rolling, squinting, or covering their eyes with their hands indicates that a player failed their flop or are readying to fold.
Lack of eye movement and intense staring at the flop or hole cards is a warning sign of attentive players. People giving out this tell have a threatening hand and are paying close attention to how everyone is betting.
Spotting someone trying to fake this tell and telling everyone they have a weak hand is possible. If they reacted slowly after the flop, it tells you that they are planning to hunt bets with a strong hand.
Anyone can control their mouth, hands, legs, and body to hide their feelings, but their eyes can tell you how excited they are during the match.
Dilating pupils occur when someone sees what they like, especially a straight, full house, or flush during the flop. Opponents revealing this tell after placing a sizable bet are not bluffing about having a strong hand.
Faking this tell by intentionally controlling one’s pupil is nearly impossible. Instead, players hide their eyes with sunglasses or visors during a match to avoid telegraphing their feelings across the table.
Keep a close watch of anyone with eyewear, as they tend to slip and reveal their pupils by taking a close look at the flop, turn, or river cards. Player slip-ups give you a chance of knowing if they feel in control of the match or not.
Closing one’s eyes or blinking is a natural defense mechanism when a threat is present. Because the act of covering the eyes is natural, blinking tells are handy for reading on your opponents.
Keep a close eye on your opponent after the blinds are set and called, the blinking tell occurs when someone raises. Large bets can make anyone with weak hands blink multiple times within several seconds, conveying how they are worried about their standing at the table.
Look out for players who are not blinking for nearly a minute as others raise their bets. Players with strong hands have nothing to fear from other players and have no reason to cover their eyes.
Hand Poker Tells
When sat at a poker table, a player’s hands are always very visible at the most crucial moments. For instance, when a player checks their cards, when they place a bet, and when they start shuffling their chips. It’s a good indicator of how stressed or confident your opponent is.
You can pick out players who are doubtful or happy with their hands based on what their hands are doing. Hand movement is a classic tell for knowing when someone is looking for protection against weak hands.
Face touching is common during live games since it is a natural means of comfort. Players scratching their cheeks, ears, or forehead after the flop tells you how nervous they feel for their hand.
Other movements to watch out for are players’ hands rubbing or patting parts of their bodies. Opponents performing this tell are not confident with their hands and are looking for assurance.
People playing with their chips are simply preoccupying themselves as they wait for their turns. Anyone counting their chips with their hands is waiting for an excellent opportunity while they watch other players.
Be on the lookout for players who stopped shuffling their chips when the blinds are set. The sudden disinterest in a player’s chip as they are focusing on their hands tell you that they have a strong position in the table.
Chip shuffling is also a way for players to relax or find comfort. People who unconsciously move their hands over their chip pile after someone made a large bet tend to feel less confident in their hands.
Putting two hands over the cards or just letting them sit without any care can form a tell to indicate how players feel about their chances of winning.
Observe any opponent who simply places their cards on the table and is shuffling their chips. When a player with this habit becomes overly protective of their hole by covering them with both hands, they are sitting on a gold mine.
When the river comes in, look for players whose hands were covering their cards and are now on the chip pile, signaling the change of value or importance. Shifting from cards to chips is a tell for someone who has doubts that they have the best hand on the table when the river or turn appears.
Behavioral Poker Tells
Joy, stress, self-deprecation, anger, and repeat. Poker games make us go through a whole spectrum of emotions and as much as we try to hide them, we inadvertently give some clues with our attitude.
Major mood swings after making large bets can tell you what kind of hand a player is holding.
Suited hole cards make quiet people excited enough to ready sizable bets before their turn. Active players with the same hole cards tend to stay quiet and avoid gaining unwanted attention.
A good example of mood tells is a player, who shows signs of irritation each time they fold their hand, suddenly gets excited after making a big bet. When you see the player getting frustrated at others refusing to call their bet, they could have something up their sleeves.
Seasoned poker players with weak hands act or talk aggressively than before to create a fake tell, making opponents double guess their hand and fold.
Responding to questions with complex answers, maintaining a long conversation, or pausing for a significantly long time when the blinds are set gives you a good picture of a player’s experience.
Serious players or ones who have gone through many tournaments will hardly utter any peep during a game since they are focus on the cards. Consistent chatting comes from beginners or new players looking to cut the tension on the table.
Be mindful of the chattiness level among your opponents. Quiet people starting a discussion about poker strategy or their time in Vegas after dropping a large bet could be hiding their nerves. Meanwhile, talkative players who found the mute button upon going all-in is fishing for anyone to call their strong hand.
Imagine having a strong poker hand you are confident no one else in the table have. You want to make your opponents call your raise or increase their bet.
Baiting any players into making sizable bets involve making them comfortable by acting weak. The fake tell occurs when an opponent makes a noticeable gesture of disappointment over their hands.
You can catch players in the act with this tell by observing their previous action before making any sound or gestures. Actions like players pausing for several seconds or intensely starting at their starting hand before calling or raising their bets are good indications that they are giving false tells.
Sense of humor
Players laughing at any joke they heard from a separate table or are they forcing a chuckle at what the person across the table said when the chips are down? Shifts in anyone’s sense of humor are useful tells.
Having a sense of humor carries the feeling of safety and security, something players with weak hands want to convey with their laughter.
You can also see this physical tell during Texas hold’em or Omaha flops. Passive players who constantly wait on their opponents to act let out a subconscious laugh or chuckle when they did not get the cards they want from the flop.
Be wary of seasoned opponents who lack any sense of humor. They focus on playing their hand and want large bets to come at them naturally by avoiding any intentional smiles or chuckles. However, long-time players might also slip out a sense of humor if they have doubts about forming a good hand.
Players give away their poker experience by going through their social media timeline or tournament videos on their phones.
Disinterest in one’s hand or game flow is an indication of a player with weak hands or are waiting for suits and pairs. Take note of each players’ actions throughout the game. Calling for a drink or looking at an overhead screen after the blinds are set are subconscious tells of low attentiveness.
You can feel a dismissive player has something up of their sleeve when they are giving their hole cards more attention than their phone after making a sizable bet.
Meanwhile, attentive people check their emails or read hotel brochures to hide their strong hands after paying and calling the blinds. Feigning disinterest is a way for experienced players to bait others in making large bets.
Body Language Tells
Experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of all human communication is nonverbal. So it goes without saying that even without a single word coming out of your mouth, your body language speaks out loud.
Showing signs of joy or glee is a strong signal from players who have a threatening hand. Smiles are a way for someone to convey that they are not afraid of any large bets and are willing to call them.
Meanwhile, someone with a weak hand also let out a smile at their opponent to show a false sense of strength.
Knowing what a real smile from a fake one helps by observing their eyes and cheeks you get the upper hand. Actual smiles form when the eyes close and the cheeks rise to form wrinkles at the side of the eyes. When nothing is happening around the eyes of your opponent as they throw a grin in your general direction, they are not happy with their hand.
Intense feelings are hard to bottle up during any poker matches, leading to shaking or trembling tells.
Shaking one’s hands is a way to relax or let off some tension when they get excited. When this happens to a player, they have a good hand that can net them a sizable advantage. Be wary of players with electricity coming out of their hands as they call someone’s raise.
Take note that trembling players could also be nervous of their hands, telegraphing that they are missing one card from the flop to make a straight or flush. Pay close attention to their hands during the turn or river. When they are relaxed, that player has the last card they need and will call any large bets.
Lip movement tells can telegraph someone’s confidence in their hand. When put on the spot, players subconsciously move or retract their lips after the flop.
People biting their lip or licking them are in a flight or fight mode, ready to abandon their hand at the first sign of a threat. Players who further move or play with their lips after someone makes a large bet tend to fold.
You will hardly see any lip movement among anyone with a strong hand. Relaxed lip on a player tells you that they have nothing to worry about and are willing to call anyone who goes all-in.
Be wary of players who relaxed their lips after biting or licking it during the blinds and an opponent went all-in. Someone intentionally retracting their lips after the blinds have a cunning plan you need to watch out for.
Shuffling or constantly moving legs tells you someone is getting ready to pounce on their turn. People get excited when they have a threatening hand, and they need a way to release the tension, such as shaking their legs.
Anyone who stopped moving their legs or suddenly froze during the flop is concerned with the strength of their hand.
Observe the motion of their legs after the flop and other players are raising their bets. People who were restless during the blinds and are relaxing their legs tend to feel like a predator just entered their territory.
On the flip side, anyone who was relaxed and is suddenly doing a little tap dance when someone goes all-in is ready to move in for the kill.
Sitting upright or sinking back to the seat are physical tells of a player’s interest in their hand.
Look out for a player who sat upright after consistently laying back on their chair since the start of the game. Sudden alertness and sitting up straight from a relaxed position is a good indication of confidence in an opponent’s hand and is planning to make a sizable bet or will go all-in.
Slouching is a conscious form of disinterest for a player’s current hand after the flop. Anyone who relaxes their posture during the match tends to fold when someone raises.
Betting Poker Tells
Because poker and texas holdem are information-based games, how much, how fast, and how big a player bets is most likely the clearer signals we should decipher.
Everyone is a creature of habit when it comes to checking, calling, or raising. Players have a specific betting pattern that has granted them success from previous games.
A common pattern involves placing small bets during the turn or river. Minimum bets after the flop is a good bluff indicator among players forming a good hand from the flop while hiding their strength.
Players also make large bets during the river after immediately calling or making minimum bets on the flop and turn. The pattern is a safe bluff to entice opponents to fold while having a decent hand such as a pair of suits.
Familiarizing yourself with the various betting patterns can help you avoid making them yourselves.
Fast to automatic checks or calls and noticeable pauses are reliable physical tells even during online matches. Betting speed tells you where the threat will come from at the table.
Pauses before a check or raise is an indication of a player with a strong hand and are carefully determining how much to raise. People who quickly check on the flop and turn tend to win with high cards or fold when anyone bets.
Experienced players with strong hands can fake this tell with a long pause before checking during the flop and turn, looking to trap anyone thinking they have the better hand.
You can get a good grasp of an opponent’s hand and their betting habit with the number of chips they usually bet.
Take note of the usual amount each player bets throughout each match. Opponents suddenly putting down half their chip pile while making minimum bets during early matches tend to feel confident with their hands.
Cunning players trick players into thinking they have a strong hand with their bet size. You can spot this tell when a player keeps making small bets on the river and turn, a good indication that they are conveying strength while minimizing their risk.
Taking note of how players behave during a match and any changes to their habits can help you formulate a good plan for capitalizing any physical tells. You can also avoid telegraphing your hand strength and intention when you are aware of these tells during any sit-and-go or cash games.