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Poker Tells: Basics - How Poker Tells Work

Definition

Poker tells are signs in a poker player's behavior that give clues about their assessment of their cards and what they intend to do. This is important because in poker, players hide their cards from one another during the game. If you have an idea what kind of hand your opponent has, you can adjust your strategy accordingly. This is the whole purpose of tells.

How Poker Tells Work

But what kinds of poker tells are there and how do they work? Anything about a player can serve as a tell if you know how to read them: eyes, posture, betting gestures, how they arrange their chips, voice and so on. They become "tells" when these acts and mannerisms form a predictable pattern. Because a player's behavior follows a pattern, you can "tell" when they must have a good hand, and when they may have a weak hand.

This is how a tell works: it works because human nature is prone to habits and repetition. Note that here "tells" are not limited to poker tells. There are tells for all things. Just think of the people you know, and you will realize that they exhibit the same behavior for the same motivation (nearly) every time. You know when someone is angry, sad, happy or nervous even when they try to hide it. Why? Because of their tells!

Tells Are Unique

You will notice that different people have different tells. To give an example: Some people are quiet and withdrawn when they are nervous; others try to cover up the fact by getting loud. Keep that in mind when you play poker. The same mannerism can mean different things to different players.

Gathering Poker Intelligence

Using tells is not unlike spies gathering intelligence about the enemy so that such knowledge can be exploited to win a war. If your poker opponent unknowingly betrays information to you through their tells, your battle is half-won. In poker, the war is over money. To win is to make money and more money.

How to Spot Poker Tells

To see poker tells, you must do two things:

You must keep a watchful eye on what goes on at the table. You must know your opponent.

- Be watchful. The biggest mistake in poker is to focus first and only on your cards. Your cards and those on the board aren't going anywhere. But poker tells are often fleeting. Look at the other players FIRST and look at your cards LAST.

- Know your enemy. Many poker tells are universal, but there are the minority to whom the tells just don't apply. Each person is different. One may whistle when they are nervous, another when they are confident. The better you know a person, the more accurate your tells will be. Conversely, if you can read somebody's tells, you will know certain things about that person.

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