Most tells only direct you to what's known as the 'Read' of an opponent. Tells should not be used as the only determination of play. Instead it should be tied together with other information. Then it can help you make a more informed decision of how to play next. Try to make the goal of tells to be: knowing when to fold. And try to let other factors like the cards, position, odds
, and outs tell you when to raise.
As I said earlier, "~ALL~
true tells are actions of habit." Online players tend to go on autopilot fairly regular. So you first need to correctly identify the norm before you can discern what is different or has changed. Don't worry about trying to get every read on every person at the table. But If the player is worth enough to start looking at the tells, he likely only plays a few hands and not very often. You REALLY need to give more attention to watching for the changes in those behaviors before making decisions about their reasons for a recent play. That takes time and information, and the more you have of each, the better off you are.
So how do you identify the tells? First try to consider everything the player has influence on in the world of online poker. Then consider how often they actually interact with that part of the game in order to rank the importance of that difference or change. Remember, it's only a tell if they change it and you are able become aware of the change.
A few things you may want to consider below for online poker.
This is probably the weakest tell to identify, since the player picks that ID one time. But since it was directly influenced by the player, it becomes part of the norm for the player. Of course to identify the change, you would need to know that player fairly well already, or at least enough to get a statement of the change during chat.
Don't get hung up on the fact that they chose an ID of, "Fishy-fishy_fish_fish," 2 years ago, as a tell. While there could be some distinctions to the way that player plays, I wouldn't say that something you did 2 years ago would be a correct portrait of how you are in the current game. So time of the change really matters with this passive tell.
Not as weak as the User ID tell because players can change the avatar without needing to change account status and user name. So this tell is still fairly weak. However, since it's directly influenced by the player, it can be changed. If you are able to find that the avatar recently changed. Ask why. The answer could give some insight to the player's current state of mind. But, just as identifying the change of the User ID, the answer is mostly a passive tell best used to gain an overall read on your opponent.
This is a much better tell than the past two, but not nearly as strong as some other tells. This is a yet another passive tell. To work this read you need to get a read on that player's goals. You can do this from chat. But you also need to know where they are in that goal. You can use that tell to figure out how they may want to play in a certain style. You also can track bankrolls with the use of HUDs or just seeing the player keeps reloading or re-buys. Otherwise used as a factor to identifying your opponent's current tilt.
If the player has been playing loose before a loss of a big hand, he might focus for sake of his goals, or change to an all-in-monster. Make sure you catch the changes in betting patterns before moving on this tell.
Now we are talking. This is a very much a more direct tell than any of the others listed before. But it's still a passive tell best used for making a good read. Because it is influenced more than any other action before this. This can also be a very direct tell for some. Try to think of the different types of chat you see. Then try to discern any change of that norm.
Since not all players use the chatbox, this action is easier to identify a change in and thus easier to identify the tell. But it's still not a tell until you get a change from the norm.
Key changes in chat are answered with these questions:
When did it start?
How long did it last?
When did it stop?
And What did they have during those changes?
A few attitudes you may want to pay attention to:
They seem to talk constantly. If they get caught up in a conversation they may forget to pay attention, unless it looks instantly good. The change usually comes when they stop talking either by a big hand or some other distraction. This can also be a tell if they go from being quite to instant chatter.
Hind sight is always 20/20. These guys like to talk about the same win for three hands beyond the hand they won. The change in these are a bit more subtle than most, because they don't always have that hand to talk about. But some like to talk after getting a river chased flush like they meant to do it that way. That could identify other tells of how they acted during the hand. And that knowledge works really works well with identifying betting patterns.
Professor of Cards:
Lessons for free? Or are they trying to convince you? These are almost always players who think they are way better than they really are, As a result they play considerably worse when losing than when winning. Again the change usually shows itself when they stop talking.
Something is an injustice to them. A good person to target while they are on this 'fit'. These guys think you are cheating. making them play almost anything to get it out of their system. The good thing is that these players usually select a target. Try not to be that target, but certainly identify the target of their aggression as they maybe responding with their own tells.
Almost the same as ranting, but they think the world is out to make to get them and it was destiny. The players players that demonstrate those 'Poor-Me' symptoms, are just screaming, "I don't have the patience anymore!" This again is only helpful if you are able to correctly identify their betting patterns first.
They might be changing a diaper, or sending text through IM or phone. These players are temporarily out of service for poker. Be glad they told you this before they decide to raise pre-flop. The idea is that they are probably going to have their focus elsewhere and only do this if they have good on their word. But it's usually hard to consider this a long-term tell. As most will slip back into their game without telling you through chat. Knowing their betting patterns is key to catching this.
Do you really think they would pay attention to the game unless it was good? Again, at least they told you about it first. This tell works best when paired with other reads and if conditions are good, the table can rake a pot or two from this guy. But don't expect it to last forever before they just shutdown to autopilot again to reserve their focus back to eating.
Muti Table Players:
These guys probably are pretty good at play on multi-table games. The difference is that they show their norm better than most as they are more likely to be on autopilot. They don't talk much, but if you do happen get one to tell you, you already know they have to sit forward just to watch and listen harder than others. Chose your spot with these guys more wisely, but don't be afraid to combine betting pasterns with this tell as it pays off more than most other tells.
***Considering not using the chat box yourself?
That's fine, if you think you can get these answers with out encouraging your opponents to talk. But most tells, besides betting patterns, need something to identify them and pull them out. And conversation is usually the easiest option for that purpose. Just don't leave too much of yourself out there.
This is where the money is! This is the most influenced part of the game by any one opponent! And you shouldn't even consider using the information from any other tell without having a good thumb on your opponent's betting patterns first. With HUDs or just a good attention to details, you can pick up changes and gain a good read on your opponent from betting patterns. Again, make sure you have a good read on the norm before you try to discern the change to identify the tell.
A few betting patterns that can change are:
Speed of the bet:
The norm could be they play clean and crisp or just as it could be that they hesitate for 2 or 3 seconds from multi-table play. Be sure you clearly identify the change from the norm. If you wait long enough, they WILL show a pattern. And remember that in online poker you have the hidden variables of not being there with your opponent. He could just be answering the door or the pizza might have just arrived. (see Multitaskers above)
Call or Raise:
The norm could be that given the flop nuts the opponent always calls. Or maybe your opponent will constantly raise pre-flop from the front position. Determine the norm by asking yourself other common factors that may choose your opponents course of action. Don't forget to consider position and odds for your opponent as well . Your opponent could be trying to target someone. Again, the idea is to identify the norm before moving on to identifying the change.
Size of bets:
Your opponent's norm in this case could be that they always raise 2 times the blinds. Or they hit the auto raise button with big hands. They may pot and half pot raise or simply place table minimum. Whatever it is, it will either be the norm or changed for a reason. Ask yourself why it changed. Then ask what they had the last time it changed, and then the time before that.
Try to rely on the change from the norm, and don't focus completely on the passive reasons alone. Once you know it is a change from the norm, make sure you know what they had when it happened last time and the time before to correctly identify it as a tell.