Strength Tells

Tells For When Your Opponent Has A Strong Hand

One of the most interesting aspects of playing Texas Hold Em is the element of being able to work out what kind of hand your opponent is holding.

Clearly you do not want to be betting into monsters and obviously it is always good to fire chips at someone holding bottom pair.

But how do you work it out? Let us show you below by giving you a whistle-stop tour of some of the most commonly encountered tells at the poker table.

Shaking hand

Ever seen a guy with a hand shaking like the priest giving the last rights at the end of the exorcist? Well if you do, and you don’t have have a monster, then fold it quicker than a monkey as they most probably do have a monster! – This may look at first like they are worried about their hand; however this is a high level of adrenaline and excitement at having the nuts!

Flaring Nostrils

This is an instinct to take in oxygen to prepare the body for an action. This can quite often mean that someone is going to, for example, bet rather than fold.

Looking at the flop then looking away quickly

When the flop comes down the last thing you should be looking at is the flop! If you watch around the table at the players who are in it (and those who aren’t) you can gain an amazing amount of info. The cards on the table are not going to change.

Normally if someone looks at the flop and then quickly looks away they most probably have improved their hand. This is similar to when a guy looks at a girl he likes, he will quickly look away if she makes eye contact, as if to say “I’m not interested in you”, but we all know that he is.

It’s also good to look at other players who are no longer in the hand. Let’s say that someone folded A3u after there was a raise but now the flop comes down A-A-7, he would have made trips and may well unconsciously tell you that he had an Ace. A disgusted look, closing the eyes, looking skyward, either way the tell will convey sheer dissapointment. This can then be a perfect bluffing opportunity as there is only one ace left in the deck and Mr Neon Sign has just announced that he had one of them! Be sure to pick up on the info of not only what players do have, and also info on what they threw away.

Glancing at chips

When the flop comes down, people can have a tendency to glance for a second at their chips. This is a fair give away that someone is likely to bet. Very handy if you fancy a check-raise! When a player looks at their chips immediately after the flop they are assessing how much of their chips they can bet and what they will be left with if they lose. They are taking a stock check to assess their situation before betting their hand.

Relaxed Mouth

If their mouth is heavily relaxed then it’s a sure sign they are strong.

Hands and Feet

These are the most honest parts of the body and can betray the reaction the person is trying to give off. Look to see if these match the behaviour you expect. All of these added together will help build up a bigger picture.


These are quite often visible in the neck and arm region (you may even be able to see the heart beating through the shirt) – Again this is measured with excitement so the faster it is the more likely they are strong. This does vary from person to person as do all of these tells so observe your opponent for a while before you are sure the tell is an accurate one for this player.

Betting and then not looking at you

Again linked closely to the action on the flop – if someone isn’t looking at you, then people presume them guilty. However it’s more likely that they are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to call them by not staring you down. They do not want to do anything to discourage your bet and so instead of being confrontational and looking you in the eye, their gaze will often fall to the floor, their body language trying to convey they are not a threat. Players acting like this are probably strong. Beware.

Betting hand

This doesn’t happen a lot, but I was playing in Bally’s and there was a guy who I was sitting next to, who had paid to see a few cheap flops, clearly hit nothing and then folded.

I was watching his betting style so that I could do some Pacing and Leading with him later if needs be. However suddenly he announced a raise and threw in his chips with his left hand rather than the right he had been doing the whole night. He then folded when an Ace hit the flop and someone raised his bet which he’d now bet with his normal right hand – he turned over JJ. Then he did this again and kept betting with his left and sure enough had the nuts. From then on I knew exactly how strong his hands were. This won’t happen all the time but is definitely worth looking out for.

The Waiting Game

Beware of people that take a long time to act.

Consider this. You are playing in a pot against one other player. You hold 88 and the board is 3 J 8 T Q. First to act, you bet out 3/4 of the pot and you opponent takes his time to think, then minimum raises you back.

Now theres nothing wrong with taking time over a decision, but if a player takes an unusualy large amount of time to come to a decision, then raises, you should be wary. The player knows all eyes are on him and as we already know signs of strength hide weakness and signs of weakness hide strength. The player that takes a long time to think about a decision in this situation isn’t really thinking at all. He already knows what he is going to do, but wants to make it look like he is weak by ‘thinking it over’. This tell is more accurate when the pot is small and your opponent doesn’t stand to lose much.

This is not always going to be 100% accurate but keep your wits about you and you could save yourself a few quid.

One comment


    Comment by LEWDOD on October 12, 2012 at 2:43 am

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