This article will focus on poker tips and tricks for poker tells, but it will be formatted a little differently than other articles I have written for this site. That’s because the list of poker tells is incredibly long. In fact, I think I could write 50 pages on poker tells and poker tips and tricks and still not convey enough information to get the full message across.
I did my best to focus on the most important points that stay within the poker rules. I also did my best to make these poker tells easy to understand. Simplicity is brilliance, so let’s keep it brilliant. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some poker tips and tricks for poker tells.
Poker Tips and Tricks for Poker Tells
1. Calling Quickly
If a player calls your bet quickly, they’re likely to be on a draw. That player is excited to see if they hit their draw or not. If they had air, they would fold. If they had a made hand, they would contemplate how much to bet or check to set up a check-raise.
A quick call is rarely top pair. Be careful with crafty players, though. They use a different type of poker strategy and will send out fake signals and might quickly call here with top pair to throw you off. Therefore, the question is: how do you spot the crafty poker player?
2. Spotting the Crafty Poker Player
If someone sits down quietly, counts out his chips fluidly, tosses his cards into the muck with incredible accuracy, begins folding hands more than playing them, looks very relaxed yet focused, this could be a crafty player, but you still don’t know.
Figuring out a crafty player is actually simple. All you have to do is pay attention. If he makes a play that makes you scratch your head because you didn’t see it coming, or if you find yourself making a mental note to stay away from that player because they appear to be tricky, they could be a crafty player.
Changing speeds is also a tell of a crafty player. Be wary of this player. Play very few pots against him. Don’t let ego get in the way. Eliminating ego is the best poker strategy to apply.
3. Tank Bets
This is one of the better poker tips and tricks and even a trickier poker tell, but once you get used to it, it becomes one of the easiest. If your opponent tanks for 30 seconds prior to betting, he is calculating how many chips he can extract from you without you folding. You will find this more in poker tournaments than in cash games, but it will happen in cash games as well, especially if it’s an inexperienced player.
The tricky part is that if he tanks for 1-2 minutes prior to betting, he’s likely bluffing. This is too long of a stretch for him to bet a big hand. That window has closed. The reason he has taken this long is because he’s changed his mind several times on whether to bluff or not. He will usually end up firing a huge barrel here because he feels like he might have given it away by taking too long and really needs a fold.
There is one exception here. If you play with the same people all the time and someone always tanks 1-2 minutes before betting with the nuts, give that player credit. There are always aberrations. Pay attention to everyone’s patterns.
4. Speed Bet
If someone bets very quickly after the flop, it’s usually top pair, sometimes middle pair. They bet out quickly because they subconsciously sense potential danger and want the hand to end as quickly as possible.
This is one of the more reliable poker tells, especially if you’re playing at a local casino or home game. It’s not as reliable at sanctioned poker tournaments, but it can be. If you play in the smaller side events, such as a WSOP Circuit $135 Nightly, this is very reliable. In those tournaments, the majority of your opponents are an open book. Some of them aren’t even aware of basic poker rules and will consistently act out of turn.
5. Trembling Hands
If someone were to ask me, “What is the most reliable of all poker tells?” I would immediately choose trembling hands. That’s because trembling hands can’t be controlled. It’s a natural reaction and fake tells can’t be sent.
If someone’s hands are trembling, it means the player is experiencing nervous excitement because they anticipate winning a big pot. If you spot a player making a big bet and their hands are trembling when you don’t have the nuts, fold ASAP!
6. No Card Protector
Most people don’t use a card protector, but some do. Even those who don’t will often use a chip as a card protector if they’re sitting next to the dealer. An experienced player has seen the dealer accidentally fold a player’s cards too many times not to do this. But the following applies to less experienced players who use traditional card protectors.
If a player usually uses a card protector and on this hand, they are not using one, or if it’s on the corner of their cards, that player is not holding a strong hand. Think about this from a logical perspective. If a player has AA, do you think they’re going to be lackadaisical with their card protector? No Chance!
7. Paying Attention to Technology
If a player sits down and pays more attention to technology than the game, then I can almost guarantee you that they will have a tighter range than most players. This is often an experienced and patient player who feels comfortable at the table. If they bet, you better respect that bet. It’s possible they fit into the crafty category, but it’s best to just fold and not find out. Most of these players are only betting with strength.
8. Going Stiff
If a player had a calm and relaxed demeanor the entire time and their body is now stiff, they’re bluffing. Time to call that sucker. Even if it’s not a big spot in one of the Texas Hold’em poker tournaments you play in, you want to call.
This is called advertising. Even if you’re wrong and your opponent had a hand, you just let the table know that you are not to be messed with. It’s even good for you if you’re immediately viewed as a calling station because you now know that your opponents will only fire at you if they’re holding strength.
By making this one simple call, you just sent a message and gained a ton of information for future play. Basically, you set up your opponents and now know how they will play against you.
9. Dilated Pupils
This is a tough one because you can’t see someone’s pupils if they’re all the way across the table. However, if you’re sitting at least relatively close to someone and you’re in a hand with them, watch their eyes as the flop hits the felt. Did their pupils dilate? If so, you better use caution.
A person’s pupils only dilate if they’re attracted to something, and poker players are always attracted to a smashed flop. This is one of those poker tells that is almost full-proof. It actually should be full-proof, but I never like to make 100% guarantees.
10. Showing Hole Cards to Friends
I was the victim of this at a final table in a big spot in one of Pearl River’s Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. I was on the fence on call/fold and ended up calling with second pair (my opponent had a straight from the Small Blind).
Part of the reason I called was because my opponent showed his hole cards to two friends. He knew who I was and I assumed he wanted to let his friends know he was about to bluff me off a big pot. Looking back on it, that’s exactly what he wanted me to think. He went crafty on Mr. Crafty. Well played, sir!
What I later learned—I admit I wasn’t aware of it at the time—is that a poker player will never want to show a bluff to their friends because they fear it might give something away (makes sense). On the other hand, people love to show-off (winning hands). Pretty simple, really. Not sure how I missed it, but I do make mistakes. As long as I learn from them.
11. Fluid Speech
If someone is talking naturally after making a big bet, they have a strong hand. If their speech seems forced or unnatural in any way, it’s likely a bluff. This is why you should NEVER talk when someone is trying to get you to talk after you placed a bet. They’re trying to extract information from you.
I will talk because my greatest strengths are interpersonal and intrapersonal (not math and science). I will say something fluidly and move naturally when bluffing in order to send a fake tell. Believe it or not, when I do this, which must be more than 50 times by now, I have never been called. I can’t use it too much because it will lose its value. So, if you can do this, use it! But not too much.
12. Not Checking Cards Post-Flop
If someone doesn’t look back at their cards and bets the flop, they are likely strong. They remember exactly what they have because it’s an easy hand to remember: AA, KK, QQ, AK, JJ. It’s not likely to be a drawing-type hand where they have to check their cards to see if they have flush and/or straight potential.
13. They Go Silent
If you’re sitting next to someone who has been talking and they suddenly go completely silent, they’re holding a monster. In order to confirm this, ask them a question. I do this all the time. Just try to make sure it fits into a previous conversation and comes across as genuine.
For example, I might say, “Do you still live in California?” If they don’t reply or if they say, “One second,” they have one of the top five poker hands. No doubt about it. If you like playing in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, remember that every chip has tremendous value. Use this poker tips and tricks tactic to save some of those chips.
14. Staring At One Card on the Flop
Only novices do this, but there are plenty of novices out there, even in poker tournaments. This is one of the best poker tips and tricks to apply when you’re up against a soft field.
When the flop hits, don’t look at the flop, look at your opponent’s eyes, but don’t make it obvious that you’re doing this because they will stop giving away information if they pick up on it.
If they’re a novice poker player who hasn’t played nearly as many poker hands as you, they will stare at the card(s) that match their hole cards. If they didn’t hit anything, they will look at the flop but they will not look back a second time. There is no need for confirmation.
15. Lean Forward/Lean Back
This is one of the best poker tells when you find the right person. Without realizing it, some people will move their hands toward the action when they make a hand and move their hands away from the action when they miss. It’s completely subconscious. What’s great about this vs. other poker tips and tricks is that nobody would suspect that you’re trying to spot this action, which means they will never send a fake tell with it.
The above poker tells and poker tips and tricks all have value, but betting patterns will give away the most information. If you combine these poker tips and tricks with reading betting patterns, then you’re going to be a very dangerous poker player. That said, what will bring you the most success is putting the hours in.
The best players in the world succeed due to intuition, and the reason their intuition is so strong is because they have seen the same patterns over and over again, which allows their subconscious to provide them with the correct answers.
This is why people say you need to trust your gut at the poker table. Since you can only trust your gut if you put in the hours, you need to put in the hours. However, it would be incredibly beneficial to read over the above poker tips and tricks several times. These are valuable weapons and should help lead you toward poker profitability. See you at the WSOP!
Poker Tips and Tricks – FAQ
What is the most reliable poker tell?
Too many to note, but when someone looks at their chips prior to acting, it usually means they like their hand and expect to win. If they look at your chips while you're tanking, it also means they like their hand.
What are tells in poker?
Tells are things people do or say to give away information related to the strength or weakness of their hand.
What is a soft poker game?
A soft poker game is a game with a lot of weak players, usually passive players.