Poker is played on a variety of levels. Beginning players play poker based on their hand values. They learn what the odds are of their hands being the best and they bet, check and fold based on these odds. This is the foundation of poker and essential to learning the basics of the game. Indeed, players can often beat low limit games just by playing well at this level.
The next level of poker involves adjusting your bet, check and fold decisions by trying to ascertain what your opponent is holding. This allows the player to increase their profits per hand by folding good hands that they would normally bet or call (based on odds alone) when they think their opponent(s) have a better hand or by betting or calling hands that they would normally fold if they determine that their opponents have a worse hand.
One effective way of determining what your opponent is holding is by looking for poker “tells”. Poker tells are actions by your opponents that give away the value of their hands. Tells are most often associated with live play. Indeed, many critics of online poker claim that it is not possible to pick up any poker tells online. This is not true. Although it is indeed more difficult to pick up poker tells online, an observant player can find them.. Luckily, there are also a few involuntary and common tells that you can watch for even the first time you sit down with someone. As a general rule, remember that when a player acts strong, he's probably weak, and when a player acts weak, he's probably got a really strong hand. Other follow below :
Live Play Tells
Looking at Chips: If you are involved in a hand on the flop, do not look at it as soon as it is dealt. Instead, take a look at your opponent's reaction to the flop. Many players will instinctively look down at their chips if the flop has helped them. Be less likely to bluff or play a marginal hand if you spot this type of tell.
Table Talk: Pay attention to what your opponents are saying. If a player says that they are only in the hand because they want to go home (often used in tournaments) or that they feel like gambling, they often have a monster hand. Similarly, talkative players that all of a sudden go silent also often have very strong hands. Don't bluff and fold all marginal hands if you spot these types of tells.
Eye Contact: Players are more likely to make eye contact with you if they are weak (hoping to represent strength) and more likely to avoid eye contact if they are strong (hoping to represent weakness). If you find yourself in a marginal situation, take a look at your opponent. If they are staring right at you, be more likely to call. If they are looking away, be more likely to fold.
Online Play Tells
Table Talk: Most online poker rooms have chat boxes that allow players to talk to each other. You can make use of the chat boxes to determine the strength of your opponent's hands. You can do this in the same way you would in a live casinos. Online opponents who hold strong hands will often try to coax you into calling. Don't fall for it. Be less likely to call an opponent who is challenging you online.
Action Buttons: Many online poker rooms have action buttons that will allow players to state their intentions on a hand before the action actually gets to them. The computer will execute this decision as soon as it is the player's turn. You can tell that a player has used an action button because there will be absolutely no pause between that players action and the previous players. Your opponents will most likely use the “call any” action button if they are on a draw and the “raise any” button if they have a solid hand. They will seldom use these buttons on a bluff, since a bluff is situation dependant. As a result, be more likely to respect these types of bets.
Pauses: Pay attention to how long your opponent takes to call or raise you. If a player intentionally stalls and then raises you, they often have a very strong hand and are trying to lure you in. If they stall and then just call, they often have weak, marginal hands, or drawing hands.
Word of caution : While poker tells are a very powerful tool that will take your game to the next level, they should be viewed as a supplement to (not a replacement of) the solid fundamental game that you learned as a beginning player. That is why you hear so much about “poker tells.” Do not, for example, call an opponent all the way down with a queen high just because you know he is bluffing. Do, however, use the information you learned to make tough and marginal decisions easier and more profitable.
If you learn the most common tells, you can not only watch your own behavior to make sure your body language isn't telling all your secrets, but also watch for the habits and tics in the poker players you're at the table with. If you can accurately read your opponent's tells, you'll make the right decisions against them more often and win more money. Everyone has their own unique tics and tells, and it's great to watch individuals and pick up on their unique tells.