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Online Poker Tells - Part 1

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 after you.

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 premium holdings.

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

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