In the context of professional Texas Hold’em poker, a tell is a non-intentional cue given by a player that gives their opponents information about the strength of that player’s hand. Tells are usually used to figure out if a player is bluffing.
Reading subconscious verbal and non-verbal tells from other players is an important skill for a professional poker player to have. Pro players will watch each other carefully, paying attention to changes in their opponents’ speech, tone of voice, hand movements, eye contact patterns, facial expressions, etc. Changes in any of those may signal that the player is bluffing.
Example of a Tell in Poker
For example, let’s say that one of your opponents is going all-in on a hand of Texas Hold’em poker.
Outwardly, the player looks cool and maintains a good poker face. However, you notice that they are suddenly fidgeting with the ring on their hand, chewing their lip, or that they are suddenly speaking louder than they usually do. As a skilled player, you might pick up on these changes and conclude that the player is nervous because they are bluffing. In all likelihood, they probably have a garbage hand and are simply hoping that the other players will fold.
At higher levels of play, skilled professional poker players may learn to fake these cues of nervousness to bait others to add money to the pot.
Examples of Tells in Online Poker
Many players believe that tells do not exist in online poker because the players cannot see each other.
This is not entirely correct. Skilled online poker players can gain information about the strength of their opponents’ hands via such tells as the chat message behavior (e.g. suddenly stopping to type or typing too often), sudden shifts in bet size or patterns of betting, or the speed of their play (e.g. making decisions too quickly as a result of not thinking but acting according to a script).
- A subconscious cue that reveals the true strength of a player’s hand in poker.