These Top 10 Online Poker Tells will help you identify opponents' tendencies at the table, learn how to adjust to certain poker player types, become more skilled at reading poker opponents, and exploit population tendencies in your poker game.
This list is created by Tony Dunst, WPT Commentator, LearnWPT Instructor, professional poker player, WPT Champion, 2x WSOP Bracelet, and WSOP Circuit Ring winner. Tony recently did an in-depth hand history review of a tournament where he made a deep run featuring the Top 10 Online Poker Tells.
Check out his most common notes on opponents below:
#1 Poker Tell: Opens Too Wide
This is a note that Tony takes most often, and it refers to catching your opponent's opening with too many hands, which is pretty common in MTTs and poker in general, but especially in poker tournaments since people have a stronger incentive to open wide.
With a solid grasp of what your own opening ranges are supposed to be, you can have a better understanding of what people should be opening. When you are in the early stages of a deep-stacked tournament, Tony suggests 3-Betting wider ranges for value when deep.
Opening too wide from an early position makes defending your range almost impossible!
The benefit of using a fairly linear range (i.e. mostly good hands with strong playability post-flop) allows you to systematically broaden your range and take advantage of a poker player opening too wide.
If you see an opponent opening too wide, which is often accompanied by them calling 3-Bets too wide, the hands in your linear range for that position become automatic 3-Bets.
With a player who opens too wide, you need to take all of the hands that mix calling and shoving and turn them into really profitable shoves.
For example, if the Cutoff opens and you have 25 big blinds in the small blind, Tony suggests to start mixing suited combinations of A9, K9,J9, T8, 98, and KJ offsuit as 3-Bets, and flatting A2 and A3 suited against those who open too wide. This is a very simple and profitable adjustment to make against opponents with the tendency to open wider preflop.
#2 Poker Tell: Straightforward in Big Spots
The second most common note Tony takes on his opponents is particularly true at the low to mid-stakes online, and in live poker. This note means that in general, your opponent is going to be under bluffing, particularly when 3-Betting, 4-Betting, check-raising you on the flop, raising you on the turn, raising over your river bet, or other big spots where they have to put in a large percentage of their stack.
This type of player can also be identified through how they talk about poker and hands at the table and are often observed as hesitant and skeptical with regard to both wasting chips and bluffing their stack away.
These opponents are simply way too straightforward in big spots, which provides you with a cheat code and an opportunity to fold everything unless you've got the goods. The counter adjustment is achieved by opening with a tighter range of hands against a player who is straightforward in big spots and folds all of your marginal opens to their 3-bets.
Tony suggests that in heads-up pots vs these kinds of players you can make an exploitative adjustment.
Against this specific player it is acceptable to flat call with pocket aces and allow them to take the lead postflop as they will likely be betting strong with hands they enter the pot with.
#3 Poker Tell: Flat Calls Too Wide Preflop
Tony sees this frequently with the low to medium midstakes players who tend to flat call with too many of the offsuit Ace and offsuit Broadway combinations.
Sometimes players flat pairs in spots where they are too short stacked to do so, so against this type of opponent you can bet wider against them as a bluff, because they often flat too many hands preflop that don't connect.
Consider this example: you're out of position, your opponent flats, you get a scattered flop and you're supposed to mix between betting and checking.
Against a player who's flatting too much wide preflop, you can start to make money by using a much more frequent small C-bet sizing.
Another strategy against opponents who flat too wide preflop is to barrel down (bet out on the flop, turn, and river) wider against them because it is tougher for them to get to turns and rivers with strong hands when their ranges broaden preflop to include many more random second pair or third pair combinations.
You can put a great deal of pressure on these kinds of players on the later streets because they get there with weaker ranges.
#4 Poker Tell: Passive Postflop with No Showdown Value
This is a tendency you see from players who are passive and don't realize that they are supposed to be bluffing fairly often when they have no showdown value.
This kind of player calls out of the big blind when you open in late position, and will continue vs a c-bet fairly often while holding a capped wide range when something favorable hits your range on the board, such as King-High or Ace-High.
When the river misses your hand and most of the plausible draws and your opponent has not shown aggression, you might start contemplating bluffing them off it.
Against these players, Tony suggests taking more showdowns with high card hands instead of trying to bluff them.
Here is an example to illustrate this concept further: You open a 87 Suited, you see that the flop is bad for your range, the turn and river is a brick, but you don't beat the draws and your opponent checks to you. Since now it's clear that this player is very passive with no showdown hands, they have gotten to this river and checked to you with more hands that don't really have showdown value. In this spot you should turn more of these types of hands into bluffs against the passive player type.
In addition, you should focus on being more passive with any hand that can showdown and win vs a player who takes a passive line postflop with hands that have no showdown value, and at the same time become more aggressive with the hands that you can absolutely never showdown.
#5 Poker Tell: Open Shoves Too Wide
This is a pretty common mistake amongst MTT players and many still have outdated ideas about shoving ranges.
For instance, if someone has 10 big blinds in the middle position, many players would assume any Ace is acceptable to shove all-in with preflop, and that's not actually the case.
With 10 big blinds in Middle Position 2 (MP2) you should mostly be folding A2 through A6, as well as hands including JT, QT and KT. If you spot players open shoving too wide in the 10-15 blind zone, it may fold to you in the Small or Big Blind, and you now have a significant advantage especially if you can identify the types of hands that they open or shove too wide with.
As another example, if you do see a wide opponent shove from an early position with 10 big blinds and it folds you in the big blind with A6, now you have a clear call. Against players who are shoving too tight, who jam 10 big blinds from an early position and you're in the Big Blind with a hand as weak as A6, there are a lot of players you should go ahead and make that fold against.
Having players at your table who open shove too wide is actually beneficial, as you will be able to make more money off of those players as they present you with opportunity to call getting good odds.
#6 Poker Tell: Flat Call or Small Reraise Instead of Shoving
Tony says he takes this note in tournaments 'all day long'.
Most players who make this mistake don't even realize that they are playing face up when they do it, and you will see this happen all the time in tournaments.
Here is a common scenario to help illustrate the concept: The player on the button has 18 to 22 big blinds and a stack that is mostly flatting or jamming, without any hands that 3-bet with a small sizing in their range. You're supposed to jam a lot of the pairs, the suited broadways, both strong offsuit aces and suited low aces including A5 suited, as well as a mix of the A4, A3 and A7 suited combinations.
As observed by Tony, many players jam a lot of these medium-strong hands and3-bet small with only aces and kings, and they never balance that by 3-betting small with a hand like A9 offsuit for instance.
Another common example to illustrate this concept is a scenario where you open raise, and an opponent calls. You get the flop with top pair and continuation bet, they call, you barrel the turn intending to barrel down for value, and instead of calling, your opponent hits you with a min-raise on the turn.
Once you identify a player using these small raises when they should be shoving, it's safe to assume that they will not find the bluffs until proven otherwise and that you should overfold these spots. This opponent is doing you a favor, just turning their hand face up, and you must be observant to this and make some very snug folds as an adjustment.
#7 Poker Tell: Reshoves Too Wide Preflop
While this tell is not quite as common as some of the others Tony has listed, this tendency is definitely something you want to keep an eye on.
Consider a scenario with 20 big blinds deep in the Small Blind facing an open raise vs the Cutoff. In this scenario, you're jamming all the pairs, all of the suited broadways, mostly except KJs and including A9, A8o, K9s, Q9s, K8s, plus some suited connectors such as 98s.
You will definitely catch players who reshove this spot way too wide, jamming, reshoving too many off-suit ace combos anytime they have a broadway combo. While these hands may seem like attractive and profitable reshoves in this spot, these hands actually don't fare really well with low to medium offsuit Aces as reshoves, because they have bad equity against the calling ranges of the opener.
When you spot somebody reshoving with a high frequency using offsuit Aces, all of the pairs that you were borderline become calls, and all of the medium aces become automatic calls.
Widen your calling ranges and be careful with broadway combos like KQ in your range if your opponent is observed reshoving offsuit aces too much, assuming it's not a suited broadway that retains a lot of equity.
#8 Poker Tell: Calls Down Too Wide Postflop
Not everybody who calls down too wide postflop is just a flat-out fishy calling station, however, a lot of players have a tendency to get a bit too sticky to top-pair hands, when their relative hand strength has been negated from the runout on the board.
Against this kind of player, Tony suggests doing more of the value betting yourself and less balancing through checking when you're the out-of-position player.
This recommendation is because there are a lot of situations where we open in the middle position, a player calls us on the button, and we mix betting and checking.
Be cautious in this spot not to bet the hands that may be a mix of combos in this player’s bluffing range, as well as to bet and barrel the hands that are top pair more frequently. In a spot where for example you open AJ and flop top pair, and get flat called on the flop and turn, you just need to bet the river for value.
As this type of player enters with more second-best hands and gets married to those second-best hands postflop, you should look to bet in order to maximize the value of your strong or medium-strong hands, as well as to bluff them a lot less frequently. When facing an opponent who loves to call down, it’s critical to not try and bluff them.
#9 Poker Tell: Bluffs Too Wide Postflop
While this is a far less common tell than most, there is a specific player type that will favor bluffing postflop with a too high frequency.
Against this type of player, we want to mix between betting and checking.
Tony suggests checking many more of our strong hands and sometimes hands with moderate showdown value, often having to take many more hands to showdown vs larger bet sizing on average.
Once you identify somebody who loves bluffing too much postflop, it might be beneficial to let them have the lead as often as possible. With our strongest hands against these opponents, we can start playing more lines where we check/call flops, call turn, and raise the river.
When you're in doubt whether this player is going to do enough betting for you to get max value on a big hand, Tony suggests checking to them frequently, given that you have a hand that's happy to call down.
When you find yourself on a turn or a river and you're facing a tough decision to call and you have a hand with showdown value, these spots start to become automatic calls.
Against frequent bluffers with wide ranges you can set up opponents by just checking to them over and over again, letting them spew right on into you.
#10 Poker Tell: Not ICM Conscious
With the Independent Chip Model or ICM Poker being crucial when it comes to improving your game and forming valuable strategies, this is an approach Tony says he pays a lot of attention to.
For both on bubble situations and at final tables, ICM has a very strong influence on decision making and the way stack sizes can be played. If for example, we're the big chip leader in a tournament field where everyone is very ICM conscious, we get to pummel opponents because they know they're supposed to fold.
However, if you are a big chip leader and everyone around you is not concerned with making money, and it's just players calling off preflop shoving way too wide, then you end up being more constricted and you should tighten it up.
Against players who are not ICM conscious, if you keep playing aggressive opponents will push back on you and you end up being the one who's responsible for those ICM mistakes.
Consequently, it is critical to remember that if you're a big stack and the players around you are not ICM conscious, you won't be able to exploit that situation as much as you'd like.
Simply by sitting back and waiting for other players to get involved, you'll be able to make progress at the final table as players will bust earlier than they should and ultimately help you ladder up the pay scale.
ICM is an area of poker study that most MTT players should focus on more, as these strategies will be one of the best ways to increase your profit against these fields.
Using these winning strategies and Tony Dunst’s Top 10 Online Poker Tells to your best advantage during your next poker tournament, you’ll continue to minimize mistakes and maximize your opportunity to accumulate chips and ultimately win tournaments!
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