Top 7 Live Poker Tells You Need to Know

Top 7 Live Poker Tells You Need to Know

While many modern players focus heavily on mastering betting frequencies and sizes on different board textures and mimicking poker solvers in other ways, old-school players were focused almost entirely on making reads, and finding tells in their opponents’ behaviors. 

Mathematical analysis of the game of poker tells us that the new school of thinking about poker is absolutely the most important part of the game, but that does not mean that poker tells and reads have to go completely out the window. 

In fact, being a master of both is the best way to do well in today’s tough poker games, as each can give you an edge in its own way. 

Playing fundamentally good poker is the most important part, but being able to make that extra read based on a poker tell you pick up can be the difference between being a winner and being a crusher. 

We have compiled a list of the top ten live poker tells to look out for when playing the game in a live casino setting, with short explanations of their possible meanings and use. 

Keep in mind that not all players exhibit the same live poker tells, and some tells can have a different meaning for different players, making poker reading an art more than a science. 

Yet, understanding what the most common live poker tells are and what they could mean in different situations is the first step to becoming a master reader of poker faces. 

Are Live Poker Tells Worth it in 2024?

Are Live Poker Tells Worth it in 2024?

There is a big debate between proponents of GTO poker and proponents of exploitative play as to whether poker tells and reads should even be utilized in the game. 

Many players who base their game entirely in GTO poker and solver simulations believe that we should not care too much about our opponents’ actions, but instead focus on our own frequencies, sizes, and range building skills. 

And while this skillset is definitely the fastest path to poker greatness, adding some poker reading skills into it and the ability to adapt in order to exploit our opponents can make you a truly formidable force at the poker tables. 

Players like Daniel Negreanu continue to use poker tells as an integral part of their game despite also integrating elements of GTO poker as well, and their results simply don’t lie. 

So, with all that said, let’s take a look at some of the most common live poker tells you will encounter when playing the game and the ways you might be able to exploit them. 

Poker Tell #1 – Direct Eye Contact

Playing against a player like Phil Ivey or Patrik Antonius, you should not try to get a read from the way they look at you, as these guys simply don’t give anything up in such a way. 

However, most casual poker players are not nearly as experienced or as aware of their body language, and they do things that tell a lot about their hand strength all the time. 

Poker Tell #1 – Direct Eye Contact
Lexy Gavin

Typically speaking, most players will not look straight at their opponent while in a hand with them out of fear of giving something up. 

A recreational player who makes a big bet on the river holding a strong hand will often look away from you, usually gazing at the pot, the board, or anywhere else but your eyes. 

The reason, of course, is that they don’t want to make you uncomfortable and accidentally make you fold your cards. 

Instead, a strong opponent wants to make you feel comfortable and give you all the time in the world to make a call and transfer your chips over to their stack. 

On the other hand, weak opponents can often try to make you feel uncomfortable by looking you straight in the eyes while bluffing, and this is a very common live tell you can use with some confidence. 

A player staring at you after making a big bet can often mean they are bluffing, and there are some players who exhibit this exact poker tell every time they pull a big bluff, making them very easy to read and very advantageous to play against. 

If you do spot a player staring straight into their opponents every time they make a bluff, make sure you never tell them, and keep this read to yourself as it can help you print money against their big river bets. 

Poker Tell #2 – Prolonged Look at the Hole Cards

Another poker tell that can’t be applied too much against experienced poker player, but works pretty well against casual players, comes from studying the way they examine their hole cards before the flop. 

Typically speaking, players will not look too long at their cards if they spot they have a monster, while they will tend to spend more time examining their weaker holdings. 

For instance, a player peeling their cards and seeing AA in the hole is likely to stop looking at them almost immediately, out of innate fear of being “spotted” doing so. On the other hand, a player holding 8s6c is likely to spend more time studying the hand and considering ways in which they might play it. 

While this read definitely does not work 100% of the time, there are some players who do this literally every single time, giving you quite a few ways to exploit them. 

For instance, if you see them only give their cards a short glance and then instantly raise, you can expect them to have a big starting hand. Conversely, if they examine their hole cards longer, you can expect them to have a weak hand you can attack. 

Poker Tell #3 – The Instant Call

One of the best live poker tells you should be looking for comes from players instantly calling your bets, especially in the early betting rounds. 

Whenever you see a player instantly call your raise or bet, you can make several quick deductions that tell you a ton about the strength of their hand. 

For one, you know they have a hand that is not absolute garbage, as they instantly called your raise or bet, indicating they believe the hand has some value. 

However, you can also tell that they don’t have a very strong hand, as it is likely they would take some time to consider raising with such a hand. 

So, anytime a player makes an instant call, you can expect them to have a weak to medium strength hand, such as a bottom pair or gutshot straight draw on the flop or a hand like 86 or 33 before the flop. 

The best ways to exploit this kind of a live poker tell include attacking them on high card boards and continuing to barrel when big cards that improve our range as the original raiser/bettor hit the turn. 

Poker Tell #4 – Strong/Weak Chip Movement

Poker Tell #4 – Strong/Weak Chip Movement

The next live poker tell that works like a charm against a portion of the poker playing population has to do with the way they put their chips into the pot when making bets and raises. 

More often than not, a player who is bluffing will tend to throw their chips with some strength, almost as if they are trying to scare you into a fold and tell you they are strong. 

On the other hand, a player making a value bet will often do so in the most humble of ways, often putting the chips in with a single mild motion of their hand. 

While professional players almost always make their bets the same way, recreational players are full of betting tells like this that can help you deduce exactly what they are trying to achieve with their bets. 

Next time you play, focus on a few players at the table and try to monitor the way they make their bets when they are strong and when they are weak. You may be surprised with how much information you can get from this single poker tell alone. 

Poker Tell #5 – A Look at Your Stack

For a recreational player, stack depth usually doesn’t mean too much until they have a hand strong enough to possibly play for all their chips. 

When they do have such a hand, they will get very interested in how many chips you have all of a sudden, and this is another live poker tell that you can use to your advantage. 

Be observant of your opponent’s actions when the flop, turn, or river are dealt, and try to figure out if they are eyeing your stack.

Typically speaking, a player looking straight at your chip stack immediately after seeing the new card will mean the card has helped their hand, and they are trying to figure out how much they need to bet to win it all or how much they stand to lose if their hand loses in the end. 

In either case, a glance at your chips from a recreational poker player will usually mean they have a hand they are not about to fold anytime soon, so at the very least you can consider not bluffing them as often as you might normally do. 

Poker Tell #6 – Engaging in Conversation

Poker Tell #6 – Engaging in Conversation

Conversation at the poker tables is a big part of the live game, and there are many things you can get from it if you know what you are looking for. 

In most cases, players who are usually very chatty will continue to be chatty until their hand is big enough to require their immediate attention. 

Of course, some players will simply talk for the sake of talking, while others may actually be good at “speech play,” making them poor targets for this kind of reading. 

On the other hand, players who are typically very silent may try to engage in some conversation when they are bluffing you, trying to get you to fold your hand by exhibiting confidence. 

This live poker tell goes to the extremes in some cases, as some players will literally only ever shut up when they have a very strong hand, making them extremely easy to read. 

Yet, the next time you are up against a casual poker player, try to detect some patterns in the way they talk to you and other players while they have a big hand and when they are bluffing, and you may be able to pick up very useful tells. 

Poker Tell #7 – Posture at the Table

Being attentive to the way other players at the table are sitting and engaging with their surroundings is another way you can get an edge through live poker tells. 

For instance, players will often get bored at the poker table and sit back in their chair, sip on drinks, order new drinks, or talk to other players or railbirds between hands. 

Then, out of the blue, the player will become focused on the action and completely engaged in a poker hand, often meaning they have a big hand. 

At the very least, this type of change in posture and demeanor means they have connected with the board or have hole cards worth considering. 

What you can get from this read in almost every case is that a bluff won’t really work, as our opponent’s hand is simply too good for them to fold right now. 

Instead, try to wait for those moments when you see the opponent is disinterested in the pot and not very concerned with what is happening in the hand, as this is the time to attack with small bets and win easy chips. 

Putting It All Together

Live poker tells can be a great tool to make a good poker player into a great one, as they allow you to get access to information that is not available through other means. 

Focusing too much on live reads and always trying to make something special happen will usually end in a disaster, but making a play based on a live poker tell once in a while, when you are fairly confident you have the right read, can be a great boost to your game. 

Don’t try to apply live poker tells in your games without doing some research first and make sure that the particular opponent you are playing against is exhibiting a particular tell before you put it to use. 

Once you spot a live poker tell that a player continually makes, you may be able to print money off that opponent for a long time and make adjustments to your game that would otherwise be completely impossible. 

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