Understanding tells is crucial to becoming a winning poker player. While there’s no replacement for math and study, you can definitely up your win percentage by using tells to your advantage.
A tell is a physical or verbal cue that gives off information about the hand. A basic example would be smiling when the flop hits your hand. Even small things like scratching your head, looking at your chips, and commenting on the hand can give off valuable information.
Poker is a game of information. To get the most out of tells, collect as much information from your opponents while simultaneously denying them as much info as possible.
To start picking up tells in the first place, you need to always pay close attention. Don’t look at your phone, watch a movie, or read a book!
Human beings are hardwired to give off and pick up on nonverbal information. Our facial muscles often move without our permission or knowledge. Take advantage of that fact by looking around the table.
This will ultimately help you to narrow down their ranges. If you are able to get a better guess about the strength of your opponents hand while you’re playing against them, you’ll make better decisions and win more chips.
Pay close attention to what’s going on in the hand, even when you’re not in the pot. Look at their faces, study their gestures, and work on developing player profiles that can help you for the rest of the game.
The other side of the coin is minimizing your own tells. While it’s impossible to truly eliminate every tell coming off your body, you can take steps to mitigate them and make it harder for your opponents to get a read on you.
The first thing to do is just stay quiet. Don’t talk about the hand, either while it’s
happening or after the fact. Even if your opponent tries to ask you questions about the hand, don’t answer. It’s much better to stay silent than to talk about the game.
You also don’t want to ever show your cards when you don’t have to. A lot of people like showing their cards after pulling off a great bluff because it makes them feel cool, but this gives away valuable information. For instance, if someone noticed that you were itching your ear during the hand, then this could be a tell that they can use against you in future hands.
Basically, you want to guard against giving off information. That is, after all, why they call it a poker face!