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Online Tells

When most players think about tells, they visualize physical actions at the poker table – shaky hands, chip manipulation, maybe even posture. Online players don’t have this information to work with. But there are still tells in online play. In this lesson: some common online tells. These tells are surprisingly helpful when deciding the best way to play a hand. In this lesson … What you can learn from a look around the table – things like your opponent’s buy-in or other indications of skill How to find out more about a player in the Full Tilt lobby. Most of the lesson will be about timing tells, and what they say about the strengths of players’ hands. Finally, how you can avoid giving off tells yourself. The tells you’ll see come from a $1/$2 and $2/$4 No-Limit session on Full Tilt Poker.

When I sit down, the first thing I look at is how much players bought in for, in relation to the table max. Most advanced and winning players will buy in for close to the table max. They want as much ammo as possible for bluffing, semi-bluffing, and bullying the table. Weaker, more inexperienced players generally will buy in for close to the table minimum — maybe 20, 30, or 40 big blinds. These are the types of players I’m looking for when selecting a table, because they are generally the weakest. At this 1/2 NL table, most of these players have over 100 big blinds, or $200 stacks. These players are most likely to be the best players at the table — and generally the toughest in any game. However, one player has bought in for $52.35. His short buy-in suggests he’s a weaker player. He’s the type I’m looking to play against in online poker. Another indication of strength is the IronMan chip — given to players who play the most hands on Full Tilt Poker. They are generally the best at the table because they play the most and have worked on their games. When I sit down, I’ll look to see who has this IronMan chip, and will generally regard them as solid players because they’ve played a ton of hands. The IronMan chip is a configurable option. If I’m lucky enough to earn one for my previous month’s play, I’ll turn that off so my opponents don’t have information on me.

One other thing I’ll do is use the “Find a Player” feature to find out more information about my opponents. This will tell you how many tables your opponents are playing. If a player is playing only one or two tables, it doesn’t tell you much. However, if he’s playing 4, 6, 8, or even more tables, he’s generally a very solid player. Those playing this many tables are often professionals, and the best players on the site. Here in this session, I used the “Find a Player” feature for more information about the player to my right.

As you can see, this player is playing more than 8 tables. This means he is a massive multi-tabler, which means he is probably a pro, and likely to be a very good player. I’ll definitely keep this in mind when playing pots against him.

I’m constantly looking at how long it takes my opponents to make their decisions. The time an opponent takes to act can often give information about the type of hand he has. We’re going to look at timing tells, and talk about the information you can gain from them. Here I’m playing 1/2 NL. I’m dealt K-8 offsuit on the button, and I decide to raise when it’s folded around to me. Often this will win the hand, as my opponents in the blinds fold. Here he calls quickly in the big blind, and then quickly checks. I flopped a very good hand heads-up — three 8s with a King kicker. My opponent has a very small stack, so I decide to check behind. Because I can get two streets of value on the turn and river. And that will be enough to get him all-in. My opponent quickly checks again. He has acted very quickly in all decisions in this hand so far. At this point I still have a very good hand — trips and good kicker — so I decide to try to get some value for my hand. I bet $10 into a $14 pot … and wait to see what my opponent does. Now he is taking more time to make his decision here. Previously he’s acted very quickly, within 1 or 2 seconds of the decision being on him. Here he lets the time bank run down, and then raises me very small. Having thought for a while after acting quickly the rest of the hand … and because he raised a very small amount, leaving just $24 behind … leads me to believe he may have a very big hand. He’s deviated from the normal timing of his actions, which generally is a sign of strength after putting in a raise. I still have a very solid hand – trips with a good kicker – and I can’t fold for the small raise, and the small remaining stack. However, if he did have more chips, I might consider folding. My opponent does have a straight, and I lose the hand. Even though I lost this hand, it’s a great example of timing tells in action.

When a player acts quickly, it can give you information about the type of hand the hold. If a player acts instantly, you know he hasn’t taken time to think about his action. Or he thought about it before the hand even happened and knows exactly what he’s going to do. This often gives you more information about the hand he’s likely to hold. Here’s a hand from a 1/2 NL session. My opponent limps, first to act, and I have Q-7 in the big blind. It’s folded around to me, and I decide to eventually check. Note that I don’t check right away — so as not to give any information about the strength of my hand. We se the flop, and I miss completely. I check, and my opponent instantly bets $2. This is a timing tell. He bet so quickly that he probably intended to do so no matter what flopped. My opponent might hold a King or Jack, but it’s also likely that he has nothing. Because I knew he planned to bet any flop – because of the speed of his bet — I decide to raise him with nothing.

After I make a pot size raise to $11, he quickly folds. Here’s another example where the speed of my opponent’s action can give me information about his hand.

First to act, I raised with pocket 4s, and my opponent three-bets me on the button.

Since we’re both about 200 big blinds deep, I’m going to call, with hopes of flopping a set to stack my opponent. I don’t flop a set. It’s a poor flop for me, and probably a decent flop for my opponent. He instantly bets $34 into $48. This tells me he planned to bet before the flop even happened. He didn’t have enough time to think about the flop and decide what to do. He bet so quickly when I checked, it was likely he planned to bet any type of flop. Had this been a better flop, one less likely to have hit his hand, I probably would’ve re-raised him here. But I’m just going to look for a better spot. You may see a timing tell and have information about what your opponent has … or he may not have a very strong hand at all, but sometimes you just can’t take advantage and have to look for a better spot. Because of this, I decide to fold.

Here’s another example of gaining information from quick action. I wasn’t directly involved in this hand.

The button opens for $7, and the small blind is going to 3-bet him. He makes it $25, and I fold my J-10-suited, which is a good hand, but not against a raise and re-raise. And the button immediately just calls the re-raise. Without thinking, he just calls and sees the flop. A player almost always has a good but not great hand in this situation. Because if he had a great hand, he’d think about raising or calling, rather than instantly calling without though to the size of his opponent’s bet. He calls a bet on the flop, and on the turn thinks a little bit and then makes a bet.

His opponent thinks for a little while and makes the call.

The river puts a possible straight on the board, though it’s not likely that’ it’s helped either of their hands.

It’s checked down, and indeed, the button had a good but not great hand. And the small blind was correct to call on the turn. The timing tell held true — where a quick call of a re-raise means the caller generally has a good but not great hand.

Never use the auto-check-fold buttons when playing online poker. It can give information about what you might be have, or how you’re playing your hands. In this situation, I’m dealt pocket Kings on the button, and make an opening raise to $7.

Notice the timing of my opponents’ folds. They both have obviously not used the auto-check-fold button. They don’t fold instantly, but do fold. Note: when you use auto-check-fold, opponents know you are playing your hands straight-forwardly. You’re not using the button with a good hand because you may want to call a raise. And you’re folding a bad hand no matter what. Had the small blind called, an astute big blind who hasn’t used auto-check-fold might pick up on this situation to make a play on the pot. This player is playing more than just the cards dealt to him Players using the auto-check-fold button are more likely to be playing the cards themselves, rather than the situations. This gives lots of opportunities to pick on such players. You don’t want to give off any timing tells yourself. Often you know what you want to do instantly, but you should time down, take a few seconds, and not always act right away. This is important for future hands, so as not to give information when you do want to take some time to think about a hand. I will wait at least a few seconds before I act, to limit the information I am giving to my opponents. I hope you have enjoyed this lesson about online tells.