Pardon, Your Aces are Showing:
Online Poker Tells - Part 1
You wouldn't dream of turning over your cards in
an "in-the flesh" poker game. Indeed, you probably go
to great pains to lift up just the corners of your holdings so
opponents can't see, accidentally or otherwise. After all, there's
nothing worse than playing as though your cards are face up for
all to see.
Online, you don't have to worry about anyone seeing your cards.
Unless you bet and get called on the river, or deliberately click
the "Show Cards" button when nobody calls because you
want opponents to see your hand, your virtual cards remain visible
only to you.
But don't be complacent just yet. Though opponents can't see
your cards, they can sometimes surmise them through behavioral
and other clues-even online. Through online tells-yes, they do
exist-you may be giving away valuable information about your holdings
in ways you haven't thought about.
Here's an example:
Suppose you've been playing in an online hold'em game for the
last two hours. Though you're probably doing other things between
hands you've become bored and frustrated with the game. After
suffering through a seemingly endless streak of terrible cards,
you're so disgusted that you've taken to clicking the "fold"
pre-action button the moment you see ugly cards. You've done this
so many times you think you're jinxed today.
But when two red aces suddenly appear above your seat, your enthusiasm
returns. Moving out of auto-fold mode, you give the game your
full attention and eagerly follow the action until it gets to
you. Someone in early position calls. Two players fold, then someone
else calls. The action is almost to you now.
But "PeetiePie," the player just to your right, hasn't
acted, and she's taking what seems like forever to make her decision.
Is she thinking or does she have an Internet connection problem?
Or could she be stalling, pretending she's pondering a borderline
holding when she actually has a huge hand? Then again, maybe she's
simply in another game and occupied with a hand elsewhere. You
really have no idea what the delay signifies, nor can you even
make an educated guess, because you've paid little attention to
the game. Twenty seconds pass, then twenty-five. Then, right on
the wire, just before her cards can be swept into the void for
not acting in time, she raises.
Meanwhile, you were so impatient to raise while waiting for PeetiePie
that you clicked the "Raise Any" pre-action box out
of frustration. So within a tiny fraction of a second after PeetiePie
acts - in fact, to the other players, it's as if PeetiePie and
you acted simultaneously - it's three bets to go for any player
Those yet to act take the hint and fold, as do both blinds. Even
one of the two original callers folds, though the other calls.
PeetiePie hesitates, then just calls rather than cap the betting.
It seems you've lost some business. Hmmmm.
When the flop comes J-x-x rainbow, it's checked to you and you
bet. The first player folds, but PeetiePie calls, then calls both
the turn and river as well. At showdown, she clicks her "Show
Cards" button and reveals a pair of black kings. When your
aces take the pot, she types into the chat box: "I knew it,
but I had to see them."
OK, what's wrong with this picture? Why is PeetiePie so sure
you have pocket aces, and why did you lose other customers in
this hand so quickly?
What's wrong is that you have two big glaring online tells. Both
involve timing. Tell # 1, using pre-action check boxes to discard
most hands in rapid-fire fashion, tells opponents they're dealing
with a very tight player. By never hesitating to fold pre-flop,
you show that you reject even borderline hands and await only
Tell #1 alerts adversaries to anticipate Tell #2: When after
all those folds you suddenly "Raise Any" using the pre-action
buttons, especially to make it three or four bets, you're sure
to have a huge hand-probably kings or aces. You might as well
type into the chat box, "I finally have pocket aces after
all these rags, and I'm so excited I can't wait for the action
to get to me so I can raise it up."
If you have obvious timing tells like these, your play is like
an open book to astute opponents. Fortunately, it's easy to shed
them once you're aware of them.
First, don't use pre-action check boxes except on those rare
occasions when you need a few extra seconds to do something out
of the room between hands. Second, strive to take the same amount
of time each time you act, regardless of what action you take.
Some experts recommend counting quickly to five no matter what.
You could do worse than follow that advice, since opponents won't
be able to learn anything at all from observing the amount of
time you take to act.
Finally, let timing tells work in your favor. Start keeping track
of opponent pauses and of any hasty bets or raises. Then try to
think what these may mean. Especially note any bets, raises or
re-raises implemented by the use of pre-action check boxes-the
superhuman speed is almost unmistakable once you start paying
attention. Check your accuracy rate by watching what cards are
revealed at showdown, and don't hesitate to ask for hand histories,
which show all hands in called pots, not just winners.
Such efforts require more time and energy than most Internet
players care to expend. But like the vast majority of poker players
in the real world, most Internet players lose, and they lose partly
because they don't make that extra effort. Think about it.
By Kathleen K. Watterson
Please See "Online
Poker Tells - Part 2" for more Info