Poker Strategy: The Fake Tell
With over 80% of our communication being non-verbal it is important for the poker player to understand that players are constantly offering clues about their hand strength. Body language poker tells are everywhere. As observant poker players, we can and should use this information to our advantage.
Building your observation skills to notice the things that swing the pendulum in your favour and supercharge your poker playing abilities. Learning good poker strategy is essential to becoming a poker expert but becoming a skilled poker tell detective can take your game to the next level.
Know What a Tell Is and How to Identify One
When a player, either consciously or not, gives information about their hand in a consistent way this is known as a ‘tell’. In live poker there are a number of common poker tells to be aware of. Here is a list of a few of the most common poker tells.
- Covering hole cards with a chip only when strong before it is their turn to act.
- Acting impatiently. This usually indicates strength.
- Suddenly appearing fearless, even in pressure situations
- Bet sizing changes.
- Changes in breathing patterns or physical actions, e.g. suddenly becoming very still.
- Voice changes, including gulping and swallowing.
It is not always immediately clear what a tell means. Only by observing your opponents can you make that distinction so remain flexible before concluding a tell is valid. One instance where you spot something is not necessarily a tell you can rely on. The key point is to always be watching and assessing your opponents for clues. Also remember not to overly rely on tells, this is a mistake many poker players make and live to regret.
Online poker tells are a little harder to identify and obviously it is not possible to pick up on physical tells but bet sizing tells are among the most common online poker tells. Many players play multiple tables and play a very basic ABC style of poker and they do not care that they have these tells. They bank on their small edge and play high volume to make up for spots where they can be exploited. So keep your eyes open for easy opportunities, even against professional poker players.
Before we get too carried away and think we have discovered poker’s silver bullet, remember that information can also be used to deceive you. This is known as a ‘fake tell’.
What are Fake Tells?
Fake tells are actions taken to induce an opponent to make a play because of trust in the observed action that the player making the action knows to be fake. Fake tells acknowledge the fact that verbal and non-verbal tells are available to observant opponents and seek to redress the balance by exercising control over what the opponent observes. It can be a very powerful tactic in winning in marginal situations.
How to Fake a Tell
Before executing a fake tell you must profile your opponent. Are they capable of picking up on the information you are falsely providing to them? A weak opponent has enough to worry about trying to survive and will be unlikely to spot a subtle false tell. The opportunity and the danger in fake tells is that only good players will be susceptible to them.
You must not oversell. You are treading a fine line because in our list of likely tells we know that “weak can mean strong” and often open attempted deception can be a transparent tactic that quickly backfires. Only fake a tell once as a repeated fake tells can be noticed, logged and used against you by a quality opponent! Don’t overuse fake tells, combine them with well-timed poker bluffs to keep your opponents guessing.
In the big blind you often have to wait sometime until the action comes around to you. Often a player will appear disinterested in a hand and then fold without drama. You can initiate a fake fold by appearing disinterested in a hand and then raising at the last minute. An observant opponent hopefully saw your initial apparent weakness and sensed your raise was not consistent with your apparently weak behaviour and to take advantage they re-raise your bluff. As you only fake fold with a big hand you can potentially win a large pot because you then re-raise with the goods.
c-Bet Fake Tell
Early poker strategy says to raise pre-flop then make a bet on the flop, which is known as a continuation bet or ‘c-bet’. A c-bet fake tell is where a player raises pre-flop and then hesitates a moment before the predictable c-bet, seemingly reluctant to make another bet on the flop. They hope the opponent senses weakness and attempts to take control of the hand by betting. This is a strategy best used against aggressive players who need little encouragement to bet. You then come over the top with a strong re-raise.
Identifying Fake Tells
Identifying fake tells is very difficult. What you perceive as a tell may simply be your opponent reacting to a hand or being themselves. It may simply be a genuine tell that you can use in your decision-making without suspicion. You must be observant, sceptical and careful.
Only practice will help you learn and yes, you will make mistakes. But over time you will make fewer mistakes but thankfully there are many poker sites to play on where you can play hands and gain invaluable knowledge and experience. Remember to use fake tells as part of your poker strategy and remember to watch for them being used on you.
Practice Harnessing the Online Poker Tell
Now you have some more knowledge on what to look out for at the Poker Table with regards to Poker Tells it’s only going to be worthwhile if you put in the practice to hone your suspicions into potentially money-making Poker tactics.
Attempting this in live cash games at the local casino could prove a lot of fun but also might be super costly with set buy-ins and increasing cash limits – not to mention potentially ungodly social hours lost to smoky rooms and intimidating atmospheres. But let’s be honest that is where you will see most of this kind of action go down. Personalities and physical presence are the two elements of a Poker Tell that are impossible to properly recreate when playing online, although many of our suggested Poker operators will allow live player chat during online games which is a brilliant addition to the online Poker space.
This gives the chance to interact positively or negatively with the players at the same virtual table – the best thing about that is you can choose to participate or not, which you can’t do when all the players are sat around the same symmetrical poker table and the cards are coming thick and fast from a flustered dealer.
“Therefore taking the time to test your Poker Tells at the online poker table makes a lot of sense – bet size tells are the key ingredient here and with small stakes via sensible cash limit tables or low entry tournament poker you can get in many hours of play from the comfort of home and assess multiple playing styles that really do base themselves on utilising the online Poker tells and strategy we have discussed.”
This will allow you to form your own style and master the art of spotting others on the bluff whilst executing potentially lucrative fake tell moves of your own.
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