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Know Your Bluff – How to Spot Tells in Poker

Being successful in poker is as much about your bluffing ability as it is the cards you’ve been dealt – the right attitude can help you to turn even the worst cards into a hand worth holding.

But how can you tell when other poker players are using their bluffing skills on you? 

Although most of the pros won’t have a hard time telling whether a player is bluffing or playing an honest game, regardless of whether you’re playing poker live or online. Amateurs, however, will find it more difficult to recognize even some of the more obvious tells or signs. 

If you’re a beginner and you want to learn how to spot tells in poker, you’re in the right place. This article will walk you through some of the main giveaways to look out for when you’re playing poker. To experience some of the best live poker games available online, click here.

  • Fake It Till You… Give It Away?

Yes, it’s called a poker-face for a reason, but there reaches a point where false bravado, such as talking excessively or loudly becomes a dead giveaway when a player’s bluffing.

The problem with the famous phrase “fake it till you make it” is that it’s a well-known fact in poker and players who appear strong will usually have a weak hand, whereas most players will play down a strong hand to come off as weak in order to throw their opponents off. 

It’s all about the attitude in poker, so pay attention to who is being extra aggressive or trying to intimidate you as this is commonly all for show rather than a sign of a good hand. 

  • Timing is Everything 

An easy way to identify whether or not someone is bluffing is to keep an eye on the timing of the other player’s moves. Acting too quickly is a classic sign that someone is bluffing or that they have a weak hand, as otherwise, they’d think for longer on how to make the best move.

This technique can also be used to mislead you into thinking that another player has a weak hand when really they’re just waiting to strike, but more on this later… 

  • Placing Large Bets

If another player places a larger-than-usual size bet, it could be that they’re bluffing. It’s often a sign that they don’t want to be called which suggests a weaker hand than is being implied. 

To spot when someone is bluffing, you need to pay particular attention to how they place their bet. Players with a strong hand will try to appear as if this isn’t the case, so may try to avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves by making a big deal out of going all in.

On the other hand, players who make a grand gesture out of placing a larger pile of chips in the center are usually doing so to make a point, indicating that their hand is actually weak rather than strong. 

  • Excessive Eye Contact

This one is harder to work out when you’re playing poker online, but if a player is making too much eye contact with you or staring you down, it suggests that they might be bluffing. 

The logic in this goes back to the whole “shows of strength equals weakness” argument. If someone is boldly staring you down, it’s likely that they’re trying to mislead you into believing that they have a stronger hand than the one they’re actually holding.

  • Reverse Tells

To make matters more complicated, there’s a chance that the signs of bluffing we’ve discussed in this article will be flipped and used against you, tricking you into thinking that you’ve caught another player out on a bluff when you’re actually walking right into their trap.

Try to keep an eye on every player and work out whether their reactions are authentic and in the moment or staged as a performance. You’ll eventually learn how to spot the differences between a real bluff and an “anti-bluff” as you become more experienced with poker.

Also see: Why to play fantasy poker?

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can tell if someone is bluffing when you’re playing poker. We hope these tips will help you get started, but in most cases, the ability to flawlessly detect and use another player’s bluff to your own advantage comes with practice. 

If you can, why not try and get some friends together for a casual poker night and see if you can spot any telltale signs. It’ll be easier to practice with people you know as you will already have a general idea of what they’re like and the ways they act, therefore it should be easier to pick up on the tells or anomalies in their behavior that points towards bluffing.