Online poker tells
Many of a magicians best tricks aren’t magic at all, just illusions, changing our perspective of an object or event. Just because that object is no longer visible to the audience doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
There is a parallel there between this and poker as we train ourselves to see things that don’t always appear visible at first. And although you can’t see your opponent face to face when you’re playing online, that doesn’t mean the information is not there. You just need to see past the illusion presented before you.
In live poker, many opponents base a large number of their decisions on tells. A tell is a physical behavior from which other players can draw valuable information; information that enables them to place their opponent on a specific hand. These tells are usually subconscious and can be seen in betting patterns, posture, facial expressions, and sudden eye motion towards chips or community cards. Some are obvious while others are very subtle.
When playing online, there are several types of online “clicking” tells that I see regularly in the middle to high limit Hold’em cash games. Identifying these online tells becomes easier in the short-handed games because the play tends to be more action-oriented than at a full ring table.
Patterns in a player’s betting can be studied through instant hand histories, provided the online card room offers that option. When possible, use the instant hand history as a vital tool to discover useful information on your opponents.
Perhaps one of the simplest online tells is the speed of your opponents’ responses to table action. These need to be considered when we are not physically face to face with other players and doing so requires concentration.
Quick Call: Some opponents will call your bets quickly if they are drawing, and so the speed of a call is a key element in knowing when you should start slowing down if a potential draw is completed on the turn or the river. Remember, it is also important to not always trust your initial read.
Re-evaluate every so often to make sure the tell you initially interpreted holds true. Some opponents may not be concentrating on the game due to multi-tasking or some other unknown factor, so obtaining information by analyzing this type of opponents’ betting patterns can be very difficult.
Instant Raise or the Raise Any button: This is the most common tell that I have seen while playing in online card rooms that offer an option to click a “raise” box in advance, allowing the player to decide his action before it is his turn to act.
If your opponent has a quicker reaction time than usual when raising, at any street, that slight change in speed could be valuable information. Be wary as it is normally an immense show of strength. They are letting you know that regardless of what you do, they are intenting on raising and not intimidated about your action.
You must be certain this is the case though. Normally, you can spot this when your opponent shows down a strong hand following a sequence of bets that didn’t quite mirror his previous betting patterns throughout the session. Detecting the instant raise is more effective when you know you’re opponent is multi-tabling and using this option. Of course, to know whether the player is using the instant raise option, you must be very aware and pay close attention.
River Hesitation: When a player knows he has his opponent beat, he will sometimes pause for a second and then fire out a bet on the river. This pause or hesitation is usually seen in newer players. If you know the opponent you are playing against has a hesitation tell on the river, it will certainly help you decide what action to take.
Be aware that some opponents use this hesitation as deception. The more experienced online poker player will time it correctly to disguise the strength of his hands, whether he missed his draw or has a monster. Again, pay close attention to how your opponent leads out on the river, and should you call the bet, make note of how much of a hesitation there is, if any at all.
Whether these specific tells help save you bets or earn you bets, there is no doubt that concentrating on these kinds of patterns can reveal specific tells during online play; tells that can be associated with live action as well.
Guard against your own online tells. Be consistent in your betting, whether you prefer to play fast or slow. Also, never be afraid to reverse these tells. Remember, poker is a game that involves psychological warfare, be deceptive.
Until next time, may the chips fall your way.