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Poker Tells in the Digital Age

Home » Poker Tells in the Digital Age

Poker Tells in the Digital Age

A person using a tablet on a poker table with a hand of cards, and surrounded by poker chips and a pair of dice.

While online casino games have largely changed the gambling landscape for the better by making games more accessible and offering a much wider variety of options to players, some argue that they have made some games more impersonal.

The lack of person-to-person interaction is more noticeable if you play poker online. Traditional poker games rely heavily on poker tells, body language, and other factors that rely on seeing other players in person.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t online poker tells. While these may not be the obvious signs you’re used to looking out for, there are subtle signs that players give off in online games that can help you make better decisions and get a good read on your opposition.

What Is a Tell in Poker?

Before getting stuck into how to recognize and take advantage of poker tells, it’s important to know what a tell is and how it can help you in your game.

Simply put, a poker tell is a certain behavior or pattern of a poker player that signifies what kind of hand they hold. In traditional poker, identifying tells relies heavily on observing body language, such as nervous tics, looking at a hand for a certain amount of time, and more. In online poker, it’s more about the betting behavior of a player, seeing as players typically aren’t able to see each other.

Getting a Read on Your Opponents in an Online Game

A person holding a smartphone with an online casino app open above a poker table where casino chips are spread out.

Obviously, the online version of poker removes the in-person aspect of the game and so you must shift the way in which you get a read on your opponents. Here are some of the top ways to do this:

Search a Player Feature

Sometimes, the best strategies are the simplest ones. Knowing whether you’re up against experienced or newbie players in online poker tournaments goes a long way in how you approach each decision.

Most poker sites have a “Search for Player” function. Use this to get information on your opponent. You’ll be able to see how many tables they normally play. If it’s two to three, then chances are they are relatively inexperienced, but if it’s ten or so tables, you know you’re up against a very experienced player.

If you can’t find the player you are searching for, then they are aware of this feature, and they have blocked themselves. Again, this points to the fact that they are probably more experienced.

Bet-Sizing

Players tend to have a pattern when it comes to bet sizing and betting patterns. So, it’s worth taking note of how an opponent plays their strong and weak hands, as well as what sizing they use in different spots.

Although this is hugely dependent on individual players, you’ll generally encounter two situations:

  • Small Bet Sizing: It’s highly unlikely that a player will bet complete air when bluffing. The chances of the player looking for a cheap showdown are high when they have a tiny bet size, which generally means they are telling the truth.
  • Overbetting: More often than not, players will overbet with strong hands. Regulars who balance their ranges are less likely to do this, but inexperienced players are.

Bet-Sizing Postflop

Regular and experienced players rarely bet less than half the pot postflop in a game, and this can give you a clue about who is inexperienced around the table.

Weaker players tend to bet much less frequently and will often make the minimum bet amount as they may not be sure what their next move should be. This indicates a lack of understanding when it comes to poker math and should help make you make more confident decisions where this player is involved.

Passive Play

There are different types of online poker players, and passive play is one of the easiest ways to get a read on an inexperienced player. This means that they will regularly call preflop and postflop and then fold before going into showdown.

Experienced players are far more likely to be aggressive and make three- and four-bets before the flop. You can learn how to defend against an aggressive player, but this behavior in-game gives you a decent overview of who the weaker and stronger players are.

Time It Takes to Make Decisions

A person giving a thumbs-up gesture while using a laptop on a poker table. There are casino chips and cash on the poker table, too.

You can glean valuable information at the table simply by considering the timing of other players. 

While this can be player-dependent, some obvious actions can give you a good indication of a player’s hand.

Instant Check

This almost always indicates your opponent has a weak hand. It shows they didn’t spend time considering their decision, which is highly unlikely with a strong hand.

Instant Bet

In a continuation bet scenario, an instant bet is more likely to come on a weaker hand. However, in most other cases, an instant bet comes due to a strong hand.

Instant Call

This normally shows that the player wants to see another card without considering raising or folding. This usually means that they have a draw or medium-strength hand.

Checking After Taking a Long Time

In this case, players are unlikely to have a strong hand. 

Betting or Raising After a Long Time

Players are rarely bluffing in this situation and have a strong hand. If anything, they’ve taken the time to try to appear weak.

Calling After a Long Time

Like the option above, this also generally indicated a strong hand. They are encouraging a bet from you and take the time in a bid to look weak.

Have a Solid Poker Strategy and Lean About Poker Ranges

At the end of the day, all of this information is player-dependent and shouldn’t be used in absolutes. Instead, you should consider it along with having a solid poker strategy, learning more about poker math, and studying how to put opponents in ranges by watching their playing patterns.

Always observe your opponents’ behavior carefully and be open to adjusting your poker strategy where necessary.

Learn More About Online Poker With BetMGM

Practice makes perfect, and you have the option to practice as much as you want on the BetMGM. However, BetMGM is also passionate about giving customers tips, tricks, information, and advice on how to play their favorite casino games so that the experience is more enjoyable for everyone.

Register with BetMGM to play your favorite games.

Poker tells are less obvious in online poker, but there are still subtle signs that will help you to get a read on your opponents. Find out more on BetMGM.