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One of the keys to poker success is being able to read opponents. It is important to garner tells on others at the table in order to make well-timed bluffs and shoves, play around their strengths, and capitalize on their weaknesses. Reading is fundamental.

Finding tells at the tables is relatively straightforward in live poker games, as physical tells are the easiest to identify. Whether it is a person’s movements or facial expressions, nervous tics or habits, or even moods and table talk, poker players give off tells on a regular basis.

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Online poker makes the process much more difficult. Some players contend that there are no tells in the world of online poker, but pro players will quickly correct that notion. There are several categories of tells.

Chat

The easiest way to get a read on an internet poker player is to get them talking in the chat box. By monitoring their comments and attitudes, a player can tell if that opponent is new to the game or experienced, and if just having fun or playing seriously. It is also the best way to gauge whether or not a player is on tilt. Initiating chat after a bad beat is an ideal way to engage that person and assess his or her mindset.

Speed

chat online poker

Credit: PokerStars

The speed at which a player bets, folds, and moves all-in is a big tell. If a player is consistently moving chips pre-flop and then taking more time post-flop, it can be a sign that they are newer players and only betting when they hit the board. If a player makes immediate folds regularly, it is clear that they are basing their decisions only on their hole cards and not on position and the other players’ actions, again indicating a somewhat inexperienced player.

By selecting a player or two to watch and taking notes on the speed of various plays, one will notice patterns begin to develop. It is one of the best ways to read online poker players, though it takes some focus and concentration.

Betting Patterns

One of the easiest way to read an online opponent is to watch for betting patterns and the sizes of their bets. The frequency with which they call or raise on all streets tells a lot about the player’s experience and level of analysis. Some players bet the same amounts on each hand, while others mix it up while still leaving somewhat of a trail of clues.

Again, this requires the poker student to watch players and take notes in order to identify patterns with betting sizes on various streets and with a range of hands.

Show and Tell

If a player is at a particularly quiet and uneventful table, there are ways to draw tells out of opponents. Initiate chat by offering advice on hands to see how the other player reacts. Show hands to see if it elicits comments in the chat box or if that changes the way they play in subsequent hands. Sometimes it is necessary to set them up in order to pull information out of them.

online poker chat

Take Notes

In online poker, there are ways to take notes on opponents. The comments are private in any player notes system, and it is an ideal way to keep notes attached to particular players. When they reappear at a table, instead of having to recognize their screen names, the screen appears to tell you that you played with that person previously and took notes. Be sure to take notes on everything mentioned above, including any gut reactions to their chat or actions.

Of course, it is always beneficial to take notes on your own play as well. Using hand histories to analyze your own betting speed and patterns is how many of today’s pro players earned their winnings.

player-notes

Credit: The Poker Bank

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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