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Poker Tells: Natural Tells and Poker Personalities

Natural Tells

We will begin with "Natural Tells" or unconscious tells. These are mannerisms, not acts. Players commit them unknowingly. Natural tells may be ongoing or persistent (e.g. attire) or fleeting (e.g. glances). You should keep an eye out for fleeting tells as they are easy to miss.

Natural tells are more readily found among novice players. The more experienced you are in poker, the better you can hide your tells.

Poker Personalities

One type of information you want to get soonest is the kind of players you are up against. Are you playing against loose or tight, passive or aggressive players?

Poker is a game of psychology and personality. The kind of poker player you are reveals something about you as a person. Conversely, your attitude outside the poker room influences your poker play. Shy and reserved persons play careful poker, while easygoing types play a loose game. Likewise, people who are careful with money are equally protective of their chips at the poker table. Showy and confident people make more aggressive players who bet and call often.

Now what natural tells give clues about your personality?


Dress reflects a person's taste and character as well as social status. We do not expect a modest woman to wear skimpy outfits. What can clothes tell us about a poker player?

- Conservative attire denote tight players. The clothes don't have to be stylish or expensive-looking. The point here is that conventionally dressed persons tend to play tight. They are not risk-takers.

- Players who are carelessly dressed tend to be loose players. If they are not particular about their looks, they will often not be particular about which cards to play.


Watch when a player buys chips whether for the first time or as a re-buy. If it is to buy in to the table, you can gather clues about the type of player they will be before they even play.

- A player who buys chips discreetly is usually a tight player. Like everything else - chips, cards, clothing - they guard their wallet closely. It's as though they do not want you to know how much money they have. This person will not gamble often. They will play only with very good hands.

- Show offs who walk into the poker room in a flamboyant manner are likely to be loose players. They would not show off their money only to play cautious poker.

Body Language

Each of us has a unique "body language signatures" that signal the mood they are in. The same person acts one way when they are upset, another when they are happy, sad and so on. Why would it be any different in a poker room? It isn't. Watch how a player sits and moves and you will notice a pattern.

Bearing, also called posture, indicates AND affects a person's mental state. A few examples:

- Players who sit upright with spine erect are astute. They are mentally alert and keen. But players who slouch are either lazy or pretending to be.

- Those who shift often in their seats are restless and uneasy. When they are still most of the time, they control their emotions.

Chip Stacking

- The manner in which a player stacks their chips often gives clues about their style. Orderly stacks of chips denote a tight player. Disorganized chips lying on a heap suggest a loose player.

When you identify the different types of players out there, remember basic strategy: call the loose often and bluff them rarely; call the tight seldom but bluff them more.