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Classic Poker Tells to Exploit in Cash Games and Tournaments

Classic Poker Tells to Exploit in Cash Games and Tournaments

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Playing poker is an art, simple as that. The game of poker involves strategy, psychology and also the element of luck, but aside of that people are people and when playing face to face, there are tells you can take advantage of besides the strategy and luck.

A poker tell is a clue, a behavior or a physical reaction that gives the opponent information about the current hand in play. There are many poker tells and they differ from one player to another as to his personality and physical reactions, but here we would like to share with you some common and important poker tells that will help you determine what your opponent holds.

Remember that there are still many contradictions and exceptions to the rule, so it's not bullet proof. Also, professional poker players sometimes "play" with these tells and give the wrong ones just to fool you, so use the poker tells as another tool in your poker arsenal but don't rely your entire game just on poker tells.

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Now, let's learn about some common and interesting poker tells in the world of poker:


Pay Attention to the Player's Eyes

There is a reason why poker players wear sunglasses around the poker table and sometimes complete their "look" with hats as well, that's because the eyes never lie.

Here are some examples:

1. Some players can't help it but stare at big hole cards and thus their peeking time is longer than others.

2. If a player is looking to steal the pot, he may look to his left side in order to see if his other opponents who haven't played yet have glanced at their hole cards quickly and are likely to fold their hands.

3. A player may ask you different questions about your hand, because people can rarely look someone in the eyes when they're telling a lie.


The Face Tells a Story

You may see many poker players try to disguise their entire face by wearing a cap and also looking downward, just like poker pro Phil Laak. They do that in order to avoid the "classic" stare-down which poker pros tend to do and it's staring directly at their opponents and see how they react.

1. Poker pros may study your face and look for nervousness you may show, thus telling about holding a weak hand.

2. They may also look for repetitive characteristics like body tics which also give a tell about your hand.

3. When your hand is weak, you may show obvious unhappiness in your face which the poker pros or other skilled players may read and notice.

4. When your hand is strong, you may show confidence which can also be read and detected by other players.


And The Oscar Goes To…

Poker players like to act and it often shows around the poker table. Poker players may look disinterested when they're holding a strong hand. They may also look distracted from the game, "not knowing" it is their turn to play or show they're feeling "not so good" playing the current hand.

The same goes for when a player is holding a weak hand and probably bluffing you, this player may talk loud and raise his voice, trying to look intimidating while in fact he is holding a weak hand and thus trying to bluff you.

Still, it's best to know the player a bit more before deciding if he's acting or actually behaving his self.



Anxiety may occur in people when they are confronted or even anticipating confrontation. Psychologists call this the "Fight or Flight" reaction to a stressful event, this links back to the days when we were all cavemen and women.

We start to experience physical changes which can be:

1. Flexing of the muscle

2. Eye pupil dilation

3. Palpitating heart rate

4. Dry throat

Now, let's take all this and understand how it shows in the world of poker. When someone's holding a big hand he's typically ready for any confrontation, and thus may exhibit some of the characteristics mentioned above.

1. The player's chest may expand abnormally (no, not Alien)

2. You may also notice the player's voice becoming slightly higher when he comments or speaks

3. Blood pressure changes may influence the player's top-side vein

To summarize all this, a player may demonstrate anxiety when he's bluffing, but when he's about to fold the hand or knows he will fold it eventually, he may look quite calm and comfortable.


Trembling Hands

Anxiety may also cause hand trembling, so be aware as shaky hands can represent a big hand and not as you seem to think of weakness.


Glancing at the Chips

This act also relates to the eyes that we've mentioned earlier. It is very common for poker players to glance quickly at their chips if they connect with the board right after the flop.

This action may be a subconscious reaction, but remember that the poker tell here is that the player is already planning his stack, thus he probably has a hand and he hit the board after this current flop.


Peeking the Hole Cards after the Flop

There are players who may take another look at their hole cards when the board will show a potential 3 card flush draw. The player is actually looking to see if one of his cards is connecting with the board; that is because he remembers he's holding two different suits.

If a player is looking at his hole cards after the flop was dealt, consider he's hit the flop or has a draw.


Repetitive Betting Patterns

One of the most obvious tells in poker is the way a player plays his hands. Thus, a player may always check when he has the nuts, or a player may always fold his hand after being re-raised.

Learn the players you're playing against and understand their betting and folding patters. If you see they repeat themselves during the game, there's your tell to exploit.


Attitude and Body Posture

There are players who show their poker tells obviously with various changes in their posture or attitude around the poker table. Here are a few examples:

1. You may notice that a player's shoulders drop when he does not feel confident and thus holding a week hand

2. On the other hand he may sit in an erect position and be very attentive when he's holding a strong hand

3. When a player bluffs he may lean forward in a confrontational way

Remember to look at the player at all times when you play your hand, whether it's checking the hand or betting it, see how he talks and moves after every move you make and it will be easier to read him.


Chip Stacking

Another good way to read a player and see if he "tells" you about his cards is to see how he stacks his chips. When you first sit down at the table, try and study how your opponents stack their chips.

This may be a general "rule", but loose aggressive players typically try to maintain sloppy and unorganized stacks, while tight poker players who play conservatively keep their chip stack neat and organized.


These were some classic poker tells you can see at almost any poker table, from the regular and friendly cash game you play with your friends to the big tournaments such as the WSOP, WPT, EPT and more. Just remember, the poker tells only help you try to understand what your player is holding during the current hand, but you should not rely only on them to win the game.

Have a wonderful day and see you around the poker table.

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