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A “ Tell ” is a habitual action by another player that gives you a clue as to what he is holding.  In offline poker, a widening of the eyes is often a “tell” of a very strong hand.  That is one reason you see so many poker players wearing sunglasses at the table. 

A player's tell gives information only about that player's assessment of his own cards, and hence is reliable only when that player has accurately assessed his own hand. An unskillful player may reliably give information in a tell, but that information may be an unreliable guide to the player's hand if the player cannot assess the strength of a hand in a particular game. Similarly, especially online, players can accidentally make mistakes, like a player fumbling chips in a casino because he loses his balance or making a certain betting amount online by simply clicking the wrong button. Thus tells are guideposts, not guarantees.

Speed of Play

Every online poker room has a set number of seconds that each player has to respond before he is declared either all-in or folded.  Sometimes, due to internet issues, a player's actions will almost always be slow and laggy.  However, often, the speed of play can be a good “tell.”  Typically, a quick bet is a sign of weakness, and a delayed action is a sign of strength, as the player is calculating his strategy with what he perceives to be a huge hand.  Watch how much time it takes the other players to make their action, and mentally make a note of it.  If you get a chance to see their cards at showdown, see if you can determine what they “slow bet” with and what they “fast bet” with. 

Now would be a good time to think about our own play and whether or not we exhibit these tells by our speed of play.  A good strategy is to try and take the same amount of time for every action, so that observant players cannot draw any conclusions from your own speed of play.

Beginner's Tells

Some of the tells that we should note here, are almost hilarious in nature, but WE see it all the time in low limit poker.  The first one that comes to mind is the common “bet with a weak hand, feign weakness with a strong hand.”  If you are playing 7 stud, and a player has an Ace as a door card and pairs it on 4th street , he should bet.  If he checks, you can be sure he probably has 2 pair or 3 of a kind Aces.  He is feigning weakness. 

Another comical beginner tell is when a player always waits one card after he has paired before making a bet.  A player will be dealt a King on his porch in 7 stud and checks it.  The next street he is dealt a deuce and now he's betting like a madman.  Would he be betting on a pair of 2's?  Of course not, but you can be pretty sure he paired the Kings last street.

You will see many of these types of situations in your online poker career.  Make an effort to observe them in other players, while avoiding them yourself.

Use of Check Boxes/Auto Plays

If you have been to any of the online casinos, you will notice that they make use of check boxes such as “fold” “raise any”, or “call any”.  You can tell when a player has used a check box, because his action comes within the blink of an eye of the player before him.  You can use this to your advantage.  When a player has checked “raise any” it should be obvious that he has a strong hand.  If a player uses the check box to “check” then you can probably surmise that his hand is weak.  If a player uses the check box to “call any”, then maybe we can assume that he has a draw hand that he has not completed, but is definitely not ready to fold.  While these are not 100% accurate, the observant player can over time, begin to draw conclusions and make assumptions based on an opponents use of the check boxes. 

The fact that a player feels strongly enough about a hand to make a decision before even seeing the actions of the players before him, should be a “tell” as to what that player is holding.

Opponents Fold/Flop Percentage

While you cannot mark this percentage down exactly, you should over the course of several games get a sense of whether or not the player folds alot of trash hands or if he is staying in almost every pot.  This “tell” can be used both online and offline, to help you determine the strength of a players overall game.  If he folds alot of cards, beware.  If he stays in almost every pot, you can probably run over him if you play good cards.

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