A “tell” is a giveaway sign that can indicate to you whether your poker opponent is holding a good or bad hand, whether they regret that their last bet was too large or too small and, in some cases, can advertise what style of player they are. Correctly identifying tells can enable you to make profitable betting decisions based on the players´ previous betting action whether you are playing in a club or online.
A live tell is much the easier to notice. Many players in casinos and clubs are not regular players, and their approach to the game can give you an instant appraisal of the type of player that they are. Casinos in particular tend to be home to the more ambitious player, who plays loose and display signs of impatience if the action is not happening quickly enough for him. He can be forced into rash decisions by betting into him quickly, or you can frustrate his eagerness to gamble by taking your time to select your own course of action. Agitated foot tapping or finger drumming are signs that he wants to “get on with it” – normally indicating that he holds a good hand. Sitting back in his chair and sighing, characterises that he wants to have a bet, but feels that maybe you hold too strong a hand. Facial expressions and body language can be significant and, when playing poker live, it is ideal that you are aware of the different actions and reactions of a player, and what they symbolise.
Online, tells happen just as frequently, but to the untrained eye are harder to recognise. The major tell is the time that a player takes to make his betting decision. If a player that you have identified as tight re-raises your bet within a split second, then you should consider whether it is time to fold. Conversely, if you have bet into a loose player, and he spends ages deliberating before calling your bet, you can be pretty sure that he is trying to get to the next card as economically as possible, hoping to pick up something on the draw.
Naive bet sizing is also an indication of the style of a player and what they hold. If you have been on a table for a while, and the player under the gun makes a sizeable bet pre-flop, you have to determine whether they are a good player holding top pair, or a bad one with pocket 7´s. The same applies to players who make raises to the value of the flop in late position – have you noted them down as an experienced player who may just be trying to attract more money into the pot rather than scare everybody off with a large bet, or are they a novice who you may be able to scare off with a large re-raise of your own?
All these tells should be incorporated with the information you have gathered about the players during the course of a game. If you have studied their style of play comprehensively, you will be able to use their tells to your advantage.