Home Poker How Can You Pick On Other Players’ Tells When Playing Online?

How Can You Pick On Other Players’ Tells When Playing Online?

by Joe Wager
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Poker Player

It used to be so much easier to get a read on your opponents at the online poker tables. All you had to do was buy Poker Tracker or Hold’em Manager – or maybe use one of those free, open-source pieces of tracking software like a true poker nerd (cough cough fpdb cough). Then you could just run the program in the background and let it tell you how often everyone was VPIPing and 3-betting.

These days, online poker sites aren’t too keen on letting you run tracking software, or doing much of anything to get a read on people. Some rooms allow their players to use multiple poker aliases, inviting/forcing them to change names every few months. Some don’t even let you have an alias; at the anonymous poker tables, you never know who the player to your left might be.

Maybe it’s just as well. It does require a lot more skill on your part to boss the online poker tables when you can’t rely on your HUD for information. But in exchange, you get to swim in waters that have yet to be over-fished, and that’s ultimately better for all of us, from beginner to expert. You can’t win at poker if the game doesn’t exist anymore.

But isn’t poker supposed to be all about reading your opponent? “Don’t play the cards, play the player” and whatnot? That’s already hard enough to do online when you can’t pick up on all the physical tells you see at the live tables. Now we’re supposed to give up our HUDs as well?

It is what it is. In the meantime, there’s still a ton of information out there to be had. Instead of fretting over not being allowed to use your HUD, throw off those technological chains and start using your own powers of observation. Online tells do exist, they’re easy to spot when you know what to look for, and doing it yourself will make you a better poker player.

Somebody’s Watching Me

First of all, just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean I can’t see what you’re doing. As long as you’re sitting there as Player 4, I’ll be watching you bet, raise, call, check, and fold. I might not be as quick as Poker Tracker in figuring out how often you do these things in certain spots, but I’m not trying to be. We’re only going to be at the same table for so many hands.

I can still get a general sense of how aggressive a player you are within a few dozen hands – maybe even sooner. How often are your entering the pot? Do you limp in, or do you always open-raise? Just these two things alone speak volumes about your style.

Is Everything Timing?

Once I have a good enough bead on that style, then and only then will I start looking for specific online tells. The most obvious thing to watch for is bet timing; some players seem to always have it when they tank, while others will be more likely to have marginal hands. If I pay attention all the way through the hand to all actions and all the cards that are visible, I might find some behavior patterns that enhance the profile I already have on you.

There’s endless old-school thoughts out there when it comes to the timing patterns of the larger player pool, but I wouldn’t give it too much stock at this point. Players are much better as a whole these days, at least online.

There is one specific timing tell that I love to exploit, though: When you time each of your bets exactly the same. If you’re counting up to “three Mississippi” before firing, no matter what, that’s a big red flag that you’re a sharp poker player, and I should generally avoid getting into marginal situations with you.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

I’m at least as wary when it comes to bet sizing tells as I am with bet timing – maybe even more so. You can’t just assume an overbet is a value bet anymore. Players are too smart and/or too crazy these days. It’s an increasingly polarized range out there.

But if there’s a chat box included in that particular online poker room, and people are actually using it? You’d better believe I’m in there yakking it up. It’s amazing how much information people will give you when you simply ask them for it. If they try to mess my chat up with reverse tells, again, that just gives me more information about what level of player they are.

So there you have it: a framework for recognizing and dealing with online poker tells, no HUD required. Consider it the corner cat sander of your poker toolkit – you can get the job done without it, but it won’t be quite as perfect. God is in the details.

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Joe Wager

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