The poker boom has subsided, but the influx of players that continue occupying the poker rooms is staggering. Online poker players have the luxury of hiding behind their avatars.
However, live poker players are faced with a set of challenges. Every breath is carefully measured by your opponents.
In fact, every move you make at the poker table will be scrutinized by savvy players. Fortunately, you can use these subtle actions to your advantage.
Spotting these common tells will help you win more when playing poker for real money.
When a Player Is Acting Overly Morose
Players are constantly trying to veil their genuine emotions in the poker rooms. That can make it incredibly challenging to put some players on a hand.
When a player is sitting on killer cards, they don’t want you to catch on to the fact that you’re about to get slammed.
Imagine sitting across from a player that sees the flop, springs from their chair, and begins dancing around the table. You’d probably fold, and there would likely be some harsh words exchanged.
If an opponent can get you betting by making you believe they’re weak, it’ll be too late when you realize your blunder.
Watch for players that are slumped over acting wholly defeated. You can make a small bet to press them out of the hand when they are genuinely beat.
However, take pause if they reluctantly call or try to check-raise you.
Avoiding Eye Contact Is a Dead Giveaway
The eyes are often referred to as the windows to the soul, and this is especially true at the poker table. Players will don mirrored sunglasses and pull their hats low to cover their eyes.
When players get strong starting hands, they have a tendency to try to act incredibly nonchalant. I’ve caught myself staring at the table or watching the televisions on the other side of the poker rooms with monster hands.
It’s hard to battle the urge to avoid looking at your fellow players. So, if you find yourself in a hand with an opponent that is going out of their way to seem disinterested, proceed with caution.
Avoiding eye contact can be a double-edged sword. Novice players may do the exact same thing when bluffing.
I think this is a result of poker getting so much television coverage over the past 20 years. Either way, if your opponent suddenly has that thousand-yard stare, something is happening under the surface.
Shaky Hands May Represent a Solid Hand
Adrenaline is a funny thing. We have this instant rush. Our bodies sometimes don’t know what to do with all of the incredible energy literally coursing through our veins.
Such as the case when a player tosses their chips in with visibly shaking hands, you’ve probably experienced this type of nervous energy.
In reality, the player is shaking with anticipation of a call or a raise. I remember playing my first “big money” game in college.
I was playing hands against some of the best poker players in the state, guys that had been around the poker block more than once or twice. I flopped full house aces over jacks and immediately felt the uncontrollable rush. As I went to pick my chips up to bet, I noticed my hands shaking noticeably.
To me, it felt like I was shaking a martini, but it seemed to go unnoticed because two players followed me in betting.
I won the hand and a significant pot, but the lesson was more valuable. By controlling your breathing, some of that energy can be dispelled.
Nothing will dull the edge of that sharp spike-like playing thousands of poker hands. Look at how your opponent is putting their bets in the pot. There’s valuable information being given for free.
Read Your Opponent’s Face Color
I’m confident that blood rushes to my face under the right circumstances, and there’s a subtle addition of color.
When you have seen an opponent bet with a bit of extra color showing through their poker face, proceed with caution. My brother-in-law won’t ever go into a pot with me.
Poor guy’s face turns beet red whenever he’s sitting on a game-changing hand.
Look at How Your Opponent Carries Themself
How your opponent presents themselves can show you quite a lot about their poker style.
For example, if a player is squared away with a sharp appearance, they typically play an elegant game. They will focus on the percentages and probabilities to guide their decision-making.
Conversely, a player that sits down to the table looking disheveled and unkempt may be more apt to play loose and free.
The exact comparisons can be drawn between how a player stacks their chips. Well-organized neat stacks indicate a precise type of gameplay. Sloppy and disorganized stacks might be an indication of a looser style of play.
Observe how a player reacts to their hole cards. Sometimes, this can be the strongest indicator of what cards your opponent has.
Seeing your opponent react to their hole cards is especially critical during cash games where you’re surrounded by fish.
Of course, you should never judge a book by its cover—unless you’re at the poker table.
Waiting With Bated Breath
Breathing is obviously of utmost importance, yet we rarely take it into consideration. This is a wonderful way to gauge when a player is sitting on a great hand or bluffing.
However, it’s actually when a player has a great hand that their breathing rate goes up. This is an involuntary action that can be difficult to pick up on but may pay tremendous dividends.
Many players believe that when an opponent is on a weak hand, they begin to breathe more rapidly to accommodate their increased heart rate. This may be the case in some but not all instances.
Still, more often than not, a player taking short rapid breaths has a solid hand.
Players Will Try to Project the Opposite of Their Hand
There’s one constant for all types of poker players. Players are constantly trying to project that they have the opposite of what they’re holding.
So, when a player is acting strong, they usually have a weak hand. The player is trying to scare you out of the pot because they know they’re beat otherwise.
That’s not true every hand played, but it’s a great indicator that an opponent has weak cards. They might try to stare you down or make a remark about calling.
The latter is in deplorable taste, but I’ve been “warned” not to call many times to go on and win an easy hand.
It’s really the player’s showing a weak hand that is the genuine concern. If you’ve got the table beat, the last thing you want to do is tip anybody off.
Usually, these players may limp into the pot after an unnecessary delay. They’ll try to present themselves as having an inferior hand that may catch a longshot draw.
Keep an eye when an opponent is seemingly going out of their way to make it seem like they have a terrible hand. An overwhelming majority of these hands are good enough to beat you.
When you have the nuts against a player that is acting weak, milk them for every dollar available. These are the rare hands when you can make a session worthwhile or get to cash in a tournament.
Is Your Opponent Checking Out Stacks?
When you have weak cards, the last thing you’re going to do is look around to calculate a bet. Those rare instances when you’ve got a monster, you’ll be looking around at chip stacks to formulate a betting strategy for the hand.
To prevent yourself from falling victim to this tell, check chip stacks between hands. That should give you a rough idea of where everyone at the table sits.
Spot More Tells in Your Next Poker Game
Poker is among the most exciting and rewarding casino games in the world. You should take these nuggets and remember them when you’re developing your poker style.
Spotting these common poker tells will make you a winner. It will also give you a solid foundation of things to avoid while at the poker table, translating into bigger wins in the future.