Amongst the master poker players, there has always been a sixth sense. That little bit of intuition that seems to make them mind readers. The way they can look at another player and seem to know exactly what is in their hand. At least that is the way many new players or the uninitiated would see it.
The truth is the great poker players of all time don’t possess any great and magical powers. They simply know how to read their opponents cues. It has become such a popular part of the game that poker players have coined a term for these subtle bits of body language. These hints are called tells, in reference to the fact that they tell your opponent what you are holding.
There are a few basic types of tells and in this article we will discuss what they are and how you can train yourself to notice them. The three main types of tells are physical, dramatic and personal. They all coincide together and, while not all players will display every type of tell, to some extent we all have some kind of tell that gives us away.
Physical tells are physiological signs that there is something going on with a person’s thoughts. Changes in the breathing pattern, opening or closing one’s eyes, glancing quickly or staring at other players, trembling hands or fidgeting are all signs that your opponent is thinking very hard on their hand. These signs are most evident for those players holding really strong hands as the physiological reaction to increased adrenaline and anticipation causes their bodies to exhibit these tells despite their best efforts to control them. Often times, their attempts at control lead them into the second set of tells, the dramatic.
Dramatic tells are a person’s outward reactions. If a person seems bored while playing a hand they may be trying to keep others from guessing that they are holding a very good hand so that the betting will go higher. If they are aggressively staring down other players or continuously thumbing their hole card, then they may not have a very strong hand but aren’t quite ready to fold. This is often referred to as bluffing and is one of the most common tells.
The third type of tell is the personal tell. These are subtle bits of body language that each person develops subconsciously. For example, a person who has trouble telling a lie may smile while doing so. When brought to the poker table, they may subconsciously smile while bluffing. Other such subconscious tells include scratching around the face, coughing, yawning or changing position in the chair. This type of tell is usually the strongest indication of what a player is holding in their hand but they can be difficult to ascertain until one has played several hands with the individual or observed their playing for some time.
By learning to read tells, you improve your game in two ways. First, you learn what your opponent is thinking. Secondly, you learn how to hide your tells from your opponent or to give out misinformation through altering your tells. Learning to read tells is an essential part of being a strong poker player. In a game that combines both skill and chance, adding any extra edge is a necessity. One can learn to read tells by paying close attention to the signs mentioned above during game play but also in day to day life. By practicing and honing ones skills in this area, you too can be considered one of those mystifying great poker masters who could read their opponents like a book