Can You Read Tells in Online Poker?

Here's one way pro poker players gain an advantage over some of their opponents in live games:

They read their opponents' facial expressions and body mannerisms.

This is called reading a tell.

Of course, it's different when you're sitting at the table with your opponents than when you are playing online.

When you're playing online you can't see your opponents.

Does this mean you can't get any tells while playing poker online?

Many online players don't believe you can read tells while playing online poker, so they don't look for them.

Others believe they are too difficult to read accurately so they don't try to use them either.

But the best poker players tend to look for every possible edge, no matter how small.

Because of this, if there's a chance you can find tells online you should be trying to use them against your opponents.

Here are some ways you may be able to start gathering tells on your opponents online:

The Difference Between Tells and Tendencies

Many poker players confuse playing tendencies and tells. They're both valuable parts of a poker player's game, but they're not the same thing.

Playing tendencies are how players handle certain situations.

Here's an example:

Some players always raise with QQ but never raise with 88.

Always try to determine all of your opponents playing tendencies. You can learn these playing online just like you can in live games.

Online Poker Tells

Online tells include how long a player takes to act on their hand in an important situation, things they may type in the chat box, and even their screen name.

Just like in live poker, many players who are bluffing act in a bold manner. In a live game, they may quickly and aggressively shove their chips toward the pot. In an online game they may quickly make a large raise or raise all in when bluffing.

Just like with all tells, even the worst players rarely do the same thing every time. If they quickly make a large raise it may just mean they are excited and have a great hand. This is where combining possible tells with playing tendencies can help you figure out the most likely hand your opponent holds.

A player taking a long time to make a decision may have a marginal hand and be trying to decide whether to call or fold.

But they may also have a strong hand and be deciding how much to bet in order to get you to call.

Another possibility:

They're trying to decide how much to bet to get you to fold.

As you can see, online poker tells aren't easy.

One problem with trying to read tells based on how long it takes an opponent to act online is the varying connection speeds of the players. A long pause may be nothing more than a connection issue.

Do good online poker players try to give false tells to manipulate weaker players into making poor plays?


I consciously change the amount of time it takes me to bet in similar situations.

For example, if I have a very strong hand and want to make a pot sized bet, I will bet as quickly as possible one time, wait until my time is running out another time, and try to act somewhere in the middle another time.

When I have bluffed a player by acting quickly on an earlier hand, I'll try to act quickly with a strong hand the next time. Just like in live poker, most opponents aren't good enough to even think about picking up on these false tells. But I know that if I can get a single opponent to make a mistake every session that wouldn't have otherwise happened, it will lead to more profit for me in the long run.

I mentioned screen names above and they have an important place in the psychology involved in online poker. Some male poker players choose female online poker names because they feel it gives them an edge. Many poor poker players alter the way they play against female poker players.

You can learn two things to learn from this:

You should only alter your playing decisions based on facts and information you can gather. The sex of your opponent does fall under the information gathering section, but be careful how you use this information. Just like all male poker players are not the same, all female poker players are not the same.

Never make the mistake of stereotyping poker players. It will cost you money in the long run.


You can get tells on some opponents while playing online.

But I make much more profit from playing solid poker and learning about my opponents playing tendencies than I do by reading their tells.

Use possible tells to help you make important decisions while playing online poker but don't rely on them too heavily. Insufficient information is available in most situations to risk a lot of money on a possible tell.

However, you may be able to use reverse tells to lead your opponents into mistakes that can make you extra money.

Even if you don't try to see your opponent's tells you can still use what you know about tells to your advantage.