One of the most important skills in poker is reading your opponent. In an average game of poker, you will learn more about the state of the game if you can decipher an opponent’s tells than through any other method. In other words, if you can master reading poker tells, you can master the game of poker.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true. If your opponent figures out how to read your tells, then you have already been beaten. If you make a noise or shift your eyes or drum your fingers in response to a good or bad hand and someone else figures it out, then forget bluffing, forget aggressive betting. Your tells will give away the game.
Therefore, you need to learn to master your own tells and get rid of them. At the very least, they should be very difficult for others at the table to read. The best way to get rid of them? Coach yourself out of them. Here are 10 ways to help with that.
1 – Always Be Aware of Your Hands
Your hands are two of your easiest sources of poker tells and, sadly, unlike the eyes, cheeks, scalp, etc., you cannot hide them behind sunglasses, a hoodie, a turtleneck, etc. Seriously, try playing poker in mittens to cover your hands. It just doesn’t work.
In all seriousness, pay attention to your hands.
If you think you are prone to that, pay attention to what your hands are doing. Practice laying them gently on a surface during play to avoid making fists, squeezing the table, etc.
2 – Play Sample Games in the Mirror
When it comes to how you look when you play poker, you probably know far less than everyone else. The only way to fix that is to play poker in the mirror. While you are playing poker, feel free to admire how good you look doing it, but also pay attention to your posture and your body movements.
Do you slouch? Lean forward? Lean back? Sit up straight? Yawn? Shadow box? Get fidgety? These are the types of questions you have to ask yourself as you play. Figure out if these types of body movements constitute a tell or are just part of your natural body rhythm. Either way, do your best to cancel all movement and sit there, giving no information about what is going on.
3 – Record Your Facial Expressions
Turn on your favorite poker app through one of the many mobile online casinos and point your camera at your face. Play a few hands where you win. Play a few hands where you lose. Rewind your video.
Now, as you watch the video, can you tell if you were winning or losing? Do you smile? Snort? Frown? Laugh? If you do, try to stop it. Any of those actions can become great tells.
Restart the video recording and play more poker. As you do, be intentional about not letting your face express anything about your hand. After a while, you will get it.
4 – Record Your Eye Movement
Yes, your soul is important, but the eyes are the gateway to your hole cards. Sadly, of all your tells, the eyes are the hardest to disguise.
If your tournament or casino or group of friends allows you to wear sunglasses, they’re not a bad option. You should definitely train yourself to wear them and play. However, you may not always have glasses, which is why you need to record your eyes while you play. Then, through constant repetition, coach yourself to prevent your eyes from talking too much.
5 – Watch Other People’s Reactions
When you play poker in real life, watch other people watching you. At first, this should give you a pretty good idea of what they’re seeing and when you’re revealing your tell. Perhaps you can hide when you have good hole cards, but they can always tell when you’re bluffing. Maybe it’s something else, but watching others can teach you about yourself.
Once you have mastered how others see you, though, it’s time to get devious. Start sending out fake poker tells and see how other people react. If you widen your eyes and suddenly everyone folds, there’s a good chance that’s your tell. If you shake your hands and people act like you’re bluffing, you have probably found another tell. Experiment to see if you figure out what information you’re broadcasting.
6 – Blood Pressure Cuff
Yes, this is taking things a bit far, but if you’re serious about getting rid of your tells, your blood pressure is a tell. It’s very possible that when you have great cards or miss dealing to an inside straight, your cheeks will flush or you will find some other way to turn red. This is good information for you to know.
Sadly, you may not have many options except to cover your skin, but at least you know you need to do it. You can also try exercises to keep yourself calm, but don’t let those become tells, too.
7 – Use a Timer for Changes in Speed of Play
Your phone should have a stopwatch on it. Keep track using the lap timer of how quickly you make your bets and see if you have any patterns.
With that said, this one can be a little tough to judge since there’s a natural cadence to how a game is played. Most of the time betting is much faster at the start of the hand and more thinking happens at the end. Take that into account, but do try to tell if you get antsy or overly thoughtful in certain situations.
8 – Record Your Noises
Turn off the video portion of your recorder and listen to yourself play. Try to pick out if you’re grunting or snorting or talking excessively at certain points during the game. Guess what? It’s possible these are all poker tells and, often, verbal tells are far easier to pick up than non-verbal cues.
Fortunately, they’re often much easier to correct. Just concentrate on being economical with words or talking all the time. Either way, keep a consistent sound pattern.
9 – Sit in a Squeaky Chair
Do you fidget? If you’re not 100% sure, find a squeaky chair and play in it. Usually, the sound of the chair will alert you to whether you’re a fidgeter.
Sometimes, though, you need a little more data. In that case, record yourself with the volume turned up. If you’re playing for real money and you suddenly hear the chair start to go off like it’s in an earthquake, there’s a good chance you are fidgeter and need to stop lest you tell the table your emotional state.
The good news here is that you’re probably a fidgeter outside of poker. Therefore, you have lots of chances to practice.
10 – Ink the Card
Inking the card is just one way to figure out if you are consciously or unconsciously touching your cards. Once you figure it out, stop touching your cards.
People who check the hole cards repeatedly tell the table that something is going on. Therefore, your best bet is to leave your cards alone. Then, there’s no chance of sending the table any signals.
Figuring out your tells is a fairly easy process at the end of the day, though it may feel time consuming and, perhaps, a little silly. No one really wants to sit at the table in a blood pressure cuff in a squeaky old chair with cameras pointed at their face and eyes. Frankly, if you’re not playing competitively or professionally, you may never need to go to such lengths.
Looking at your poker tells is really just a simple matter of watching a video of yourself and seeing how react.
Once you know what you are doing, you can make a conscious effort. With that said, we do recommend that you play small stakes games while coaching yourself out of your tells. Concentrating on not having a tell robs you from concentrating on the game, and your play might suffer. Therefore, practice when the stakes are low until it becomes second nature to not fidget, talk, etc., and you will be just fine.