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Tells in Poker

The science behind reading body language and face expression is widely available on the internet and you can search for it easily. So, I will put together some important tells you can use in poker or even in important life situations.

How it works

Body language consists of body movements, positions and facial expressions. Basically, every human being has certain body movements or positions depending on what they are thinking and what feelings they have. For example, if someone tilts their head down and they look down, that means they are disappointed about something. This could be useful in order to examine the opponent’s emotional state. If you see that, the opponent may be on a tilt and you can take advantage of that.

Face expressions and micro-expressions are the second thing you can watch for. The principle is simple. If you have a certain emotion or feeling, then you will express that through your face muscles making you easy to read. The catch here is that face expressions can also be faked, meaning that some poker players can get very good at keeping the “poker face” or at giving fake expressions. This makes it easier to bluff.

Micro-expressions are a bit different from normal expressions. They last a very small amount of time and they are very hard to follow. But, the main advantage of catching these, is the accuracy. These are always real and can’t be faked. For example, a man who is worried will express a certain face when being worried. (pointed eyebrows and slightly smaller and down lips)

Poker Tells

The first thing you need to understand is that body language isn’t easy to learn, but once you get the hang of it, you will get more accurate. Since micro-expressions are hard to spot, you should focus on normal expressions and body movements and positions.

A player might throw his chips hard when he bets and then he leaves his hand somewhere near the action. This can mean he has a very powerful hand and that he is confident. But as I said, he might fake it. You have a higher chance of getting the right read if you watch for his first tell, since that is usually the genuine tell.

Things you could tell even before you start to play:

  • Does a player buy for a full rack or a short one?
  • If players are flashy and attracting attention while he buys chips, that means he will act like that when playing and you can better predict him
  • How people are dressed can also tell you how someone will act. Conservative dressing can mean a conservative style of playing
  • How people handle their chips can make the difference between an experienced player and a new one

Strong hand indicators:

  • Drawing a deep breath, a flaring nose and rapid breathing means someone is ready for what will come
  • Impatient behaviour
  • Repositioning back in the chair, meaning again, that they are preparing for a good hand
  • Bigger pupils means that they like what they see

Weak hand indicators:

  • Squinty eyes
  • Rolling eyeballs
  • Faking a smile
  • Shaking the leg, tapping, grinding teeth or chewing a toothpick or gum


There are many more tells you can use to your advantage and you can research them easily if needed, but what I have presented so far should give you an idea of how everything works. While this might not help you in online games like American Poker II, these are still good things to know, and some might help you even on online poker tournaments. Basic actions still apply even in online environments.


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