The 11 poker tells that give you away at a table

What if you could guess the strength of your opponent’s hand just by watching? Your task would be greatly facilitated to extract a maximum of tokens from him. This is possible thanks in particular to the tells in poker that he will let transpire.

What is a tell in poker?

To win a hand and extract as many chips as possible from your opponents, you must show skill and reflection. You are faced with a situation where your opponent is gambling his survival in the tournament. Observe him well, if possible make sure he does not notice that he is the object of all your attention. He will let out a few signs (tells) that will help you gauge the strength of his hand. You can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Me, Marty, poker lover, I can’t hide my emotions

Marty has been playing poker for a few years. He plays fairly well, he tends to respect the odds. In summary, he has certain strategic notions and does not do anything. However, he has a big problem. Marty is full of tells and his experienced opponents exploit this weakness. But chhuuuut, we’re not going to tell him huh… not that he’s correcting this defect. We won’t be able to steal his money otherwise. Let us observe together the signs (tells) that Bertand allows to transpire.

How to spot a tell in poker?

  1. Marty immediately looks at his chips as soon as the flop comes down

The dealer reveals the A♥J♣6♦ flop and Marty quickly looks at his chips, then yours. Marty holds 6♥6♠ and has just hit his set.

We decipher Marty’s attitude. When he saw the flop, he was very happy to see that he had hit his set. He says to himself “Ok, I have a little over 25,000 and my opponent more or less as much. Yum yum, it’s a good spot to extract maximum value from it!” This is one of the most obvious tells!

Well no Bebert! It is marked on your forehead that you are armored!
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  1. He has a gaze that stares… or flees

Marty bets. He manages to keep his seriousness and stares at you. Why is he staring at us? We will proceed by elimination. Does he want to intimidate us? Does it challenge us? Does he give the impression of being serene? But if he is monstrous, why is he trying to intimidate us?

Always keep in mind that Marty is not aware of his tells. In fact, it’s an aspect of the game that he completely neglects. For him poker is logic, deduction, math, but in any case not observation. He is therefore not aware that he gives an impression of strength.

Going to bed wisely seems to be the best option.

Conversely, Marty bets, but avoids your gaze. As if he had something to hide. He’s not really comfortable. Sometimes he will even let out a small smirk as he tries to hold your gaze. There is a good chance that our friend is in the middle of the cinema.

  1. His hands that handle chips/cards

Marty is about to bet. He gently grabs a small stack of tokens with his right hand. His hand is shaking. His left hand is arranged above his cards in a protective manner. “No one will take my hand!”

  1. The speed at which he will play

Marty is nervous, he does not know if it is his turn to play or not. He asks the dealer “whose is it?” or else he steals the floor from his opponent. His impatience betrayed him and in this specific case, it is clearly a sign of strength.

  1. The trembling voice… or not

Our dear friend is about to bet. He announces “2 humm humm 2700″ in an unclear voice, difficult to distinguish, slightly shaky. A change in tone of voice usually indicates a lack of confidence.

Either Marty has a cold, or he’s drunk, or he’s in the middle of a bluff. Or the 3… .

  1. The silent talker

Marty is a nice guy. Always in a good mood. His company is appreciated. He discusses, he has fun, he tells his anecdotes. He raised, two people called. The flop comes A♣10♥[6h]. Marty is suddenly much less active in the discussion. Ah… this is getting serious. He bets 2/3 of the pot.

Our friend flopped something interesting and seems very interested in playing this move with the utmost care. You will probably have a better spot later. Either way, Marty will win the hand.
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  1. He said too much…or not enough

The way he speaks will no doubt betray his trust. Do not hesitate to play his game and make him talk. The more he talks, the more information he will give you. Some players will make fake-tells. They will want to appear strong when they are weak, or weak when they are strong. In the latter case, they will become more active if they feel they are about to lose you. This sudden restlessness can be seen as a sign of strength.

Please note that a bluffer never wants to appear weak. Let’s say you have the 4th best possible combination and Marty pushes all-in. You have a very strong hand. You start to question your opponent who takes the bait and answers you. “Did you really hit your set?” Marty replies “No. I don’t have three of a kind.” Bingo! He tries to look weak. A bluffer would never do such a thing. On the contrary, he will pray that you put him on a set or better. Your questions are meant to eliminate hands that beat you. If your opponent is collaborating to eliminate these hands, it’s a clear sign of strength.

  1. The one who’s so still it looks like he’s stuck

Jacques said “Stay still!”. “As I am in the middle of a bluff, I especially do not want to appear suspicious. The easiest way is therefore not to move at all, so that my opponent will not notice anything strange. It’s a bit of a summary, I grant you, but it’s more or less what happens in the subconscious of our friend Marty.

  1. He has an itchy nose

“Pfff…that damn nose is starting to scratch. But why does he have to scratch now? Oh well, I’m going to scratch myself to look relaxed. Look at me people, I’m super comfortable, I can even scratch my nose! Shit, now my ear is itchy. Ouch ouch ouch, I’m going to get caught in the middle of a bluff! No, I’m not going to scratch myself, no! Arrghh it scratches too much!

WHAT?!? What are you staring at me? You want my photo? I’m nervous yeah, so what?

And what then? Well you’re in the middle of a bluff Marty!

  1. The one who wants to scare you by splashing the pot with his chips while betting

Our super hero raised pre-flop. The board shows J♠7♦3♣. A very dry board. Marty bets by throwing his chips into the pot made up of pre-flop bets and antes. The chips fall with a crash. This is called splashing the pot. This is also a departure from poker etiquette. This show of force is meant to scare you out of the pot.

You are allowed to pay standing on the table.

  1. The One Almost Ready for Hollywood

The 3rd club has just fallen on the river. Marty sighs and rolls his eyes. He shakes his head and looks annoyed. He says “good and well too bad!” And he bets 3/4 of the pot. Uh… how to tell you? You’re just not believable mate.

You eat your cards, you throw them away, you burn them, but in no case do you pay.

It’s not an exact science

Wait, wait, wait. Everything you have just read is not an exact science. It is, at most, a decision-making tool. Some players will react differently depending on the situation. The points I have just listed are let’s say “the norm”.

Beware of false tells

Some players will consciously leak false tells. These will often be the most obvious to unseal. Beware. Sometimes it will be overplayed. Stay on your guard. The tell should not be the only point on which you will rely to make your decision. Use this tool only to reinforce a feeling.
books on poker tells
Poker Tells

Joe Navarro, a former FBI special agent wrote a reference book in collaboration with Phil Hellmuth entitled Poker tells. I highly recommend it.

All the great poker players will tell you: to win at poker you need a bit of luck, a hint of mathematics and some tricks. While the mathematical aspect of poker has been covered extensively over the past 20 years, techniques for reading opponents and the art of concealing one’s own tells have been overlooked. Finally… Until today.

Joe Navarro, a former counter-espionage ace specializing in non-verbal communication and behavior analysis – in short, a man capable of spotting liars and other fabricators of all stripes reveals infallible techniques, illustrated by examples provided by Phil Hellmuth, the famous poker player, which will allow you to decipher and interpret the body language of your opponents as well as their misdeeds while teaching you how to conceal your own tells.

Joe will make you a human lie detector, ready to call any bluff – and the most feared player in the room.

Now you know a little more about tells. Use this tool to help you make your decisions. Also think that your opponents are watching you and looking for one or other of these signals! Be careful!