A tell is a mannerism or physical movement that can give you an indication of the strength of an opponent's hand or tell you if the player is bluffing. It can be a voluntary movement to try to deceive you or it can be an involuntary reaction to the cards. The term tell is short for "a telltale sign." If you can learn to spot tells, you will be able to win some hands just by reading another player. Once you master the basics of the game, and are playing winning poker, you can learn to read your opponents and increase your profits. Tells are the body language of the poker table. Some tells are fairly obvious while others can be subtler.
Acts Weak When Strong
One of the universal tells you will discover is that most players will act strong when they are weak and act weak when they are strong. Players who look sad or shrug when placing bets in the pot usually have a very strong hand. They will sometimes verbalize this by saying in a weak voice, "Oh, all right I'll call." They may use some other expression, but anytime they act reluctant to call, you can be certain that they have a strong hand. A player making a loud, forceful bet with much fanfare usually does not have a strong hand.
Where Are They Looking?
A player staring right at you is daring you to call them. They are trying to intimidate you into folding by daring you to call their bet. A player looking away from you, trying to seem uninterested, usually has a strong hand. That player wants you to call and is trying to seem nonchalant about his hand.
Suddenly Paying Attention
I mentioned this tell earlier in the book when I wrote about starting hands, but it should be repeated here. When a player who is reading or watching TV looks at the cards dealt to him and sets down the magazine or directs his attention to the game, then he has a playable hand.
Staring at the Flop
After the flop cards are turned up on the board, a player staring at the flop usually was not helped by it. A player who sees the flop and immediately looks away or glances down at his chips has made a hand.
The No Flush Tell
If a player looks at his pocket cards when three cards of the same suit flop, he usually doesn't have a flush. Chances are he has one card of that suit and he wants to see the value of the suited card.
If a player's hands are shaking when he makes his bet, you can be sure he has have a very strong hand. This is an involuntary tell that is not an act. I know this from experience. When I won my first tournament I had so much adrenaline pumping through my body that I found myself shaking when I made a big hand. I knew I was doing it but had difficulty trying to control it. One observer actually mentioned this to me after the match was over.
You can tell the strength of a player's hand by noticing changes in his breathing. This is another involuntary tell. A player who starts breathing rapidly after seeing the next card has a strong hand. If you are close to this player you may actually hear him breathing. On the other hand, if a player is holding his breath waiting for you to act, then he is usually bluffing.
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