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The Most Common Poker Tells and How to Spot Them

March 2, 2023
by Jeannie Albaredo

Table of Contents

The Most Common Poker Tells and How to Spot Them

Whether you’re an experienced player or just starting, you’ve probably heard about poker tells or seen a few yourself. A poker tell is an unintentional (or on purpose) action or facial expression that could give away your hand or help you bluff if you are good at it.

Many experts say that players should focus on their own game and not pay too much attention to what other players do. But even if you don’t use other players’ tells to decide how to play, learning how to spot, read, and understand them is a good idea. It can help when you are one of the few people left in a game and every move matters.

Defensive Tricks

Most of the time, defensive tricks happen when a player has a weak or average hand. So, if a player waits for their turn and reaches for their chips like they are ready to play while making a move, they have a weak hand. What makes it a good story? Because a player with a firm hand wouldn’t want to tell you that they have a strong hand and give you a reason not to bet.

When a player shuffles the chips on the river before checking, it could signify that they have a weaker hand than they want their opponents to think. Even if it’s not their turn, a player moving toward the chips when ready to check or call the bet could be a sign that they have a terrible hand. Also, if the game has a big gamble, a player who is acting defensively and has a weak hand is likely to fold.

If you notice that a player is nervous and acting strange after a check, it could be because they have a weak hand and aren’t happy with their choice. If you remember that these are all signs, they sometimes mean different things. It would be best to watch a person and find at least a few tells before deciding.

Impulsive Decisions

In poker, impulsive decisions can be a telltale sign of a player’s underlying emotions and thought processes. When players make an impulsive decision, they often react to a sudden surge of emotion, such as fear, anger, or excitement. These emotions can cause a player to act hastily without fully considering the potential consequences of their actions. In poker, impulsive decisions can be particularly revealing, providing insights into a player’s hand strength, confidence level, and overall strategy.¬†

A skilled opponent can use impulsive decisions as a poker tell to gain an advantage by deducing the player’s emotional state and using this information to inform their own decisions and actions at the table. However, it is essential to note that not all impulsive decisions indicate weakness or emotional instability. In some cases, a sudden move may be a calculated risk taken by a skilled player, designed to throw off their opponents and gain an edge in the game. Overall, understanding and interpreting impulsive decisions in poker requires a combination of careful observation, psychological insight, and strategic thinking.

The Most Common Poker Tells and How to Spot Them

Weak-Hand Statements

Most of the time, players with strong hands are the ones who say, “I have a weak hand.” It is because bluffers likely need help to weaken their hand range quickly. Instead, they use neutral or strong statements to make their point stronger.

For example, before going all in on the river, a player could say, “I was afraid you’d win, but I think you have a weak hand.” It’s a way for someone who might not have the best hand but is sure of winning to hint that they do.

The thing about weak-hand statements is that they mean more when they come from bettors rather than checkers or callers in the game. This statement could teach you a lot if you like reading poker tells.

Strong-hand statements, however, are harder to figure out because bluffers can use them to improve their position, and a player with solid hands may just be so calm and sure of themselves that they don’t mind making them.


Goading is more likely to be a sign of a firm hand than a weak one, according to experts. In poker, “goading” is when one player tries to get another player to do something. So it’s not physical taunting but words meant to shake the opponent up.

“I dare you to call” or “Oh, I’m pretty sure you’re going to fold after this” are statements that try to get someone to do something. Like many other tells, these can be taken in different ways. It’s not likely that a player trying to bluff would say something like this, but if another player calls their bluff, it’s also not impossible.


People also tend to see irritation as a move made by a player who has a firm hand. A player who is relaxed and sure of himself is more likely to be cheeky and say rude things to get other players angry. Irritating comments could rush players who take a long time to decide what to do, or they could be impatient gestures toward a watch.

People usually think bluffers don’t want to say things like this because it could make opponents with stronger hands even angrier. Again, this can be interpreted differently since there are always exceptions, and we know that some statements can be taken differently.


Most of the poker tells we discussed were for table games, but they also apply to online poker. Tells aren’t as important in online poker games as in traditional ones, but you can still pay attention to the size of a player’s bet, how long it takes them to make a move, or what they write in the chat.

Read more: Online Casino Safety: Tips to Protect Yourself!

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