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How to study your opponent in poker

Poker players are liars. Some are poor liars, so you have to hide your smirk. Some are exceptional liars. But even stone-faced people are quite expressive, at least to those who know them well.

Although you may think you don’t have that kind of time, you do. Even the loosest poker players at the Texas Hold’em table see less than 50% of the flops. This means that you will have plenty of time to carefully study the people around the table.

For a poker tell to be useful, you must complete the following three steps:

  • Recognize the saying
  • Identify its importance in the context
  • Respond accordingly

Let’s look at the basic philosophy of how to study your opponent in poker. If you need a refresher, be sure to check out our most common poker tells.

1. Learn Your Opponent’s “Default Setting”

When I say “default settings” I mean what each opponent does under normal circumstances. Otherwise, how will you ever identify as out of the ordinary?

But say are subjective. To correctly spot and interpret your opponent’s tells, you must first learn to study opponents in poker.

Regardless of why they fold, they now give you the perfect opportunity to learn what they look like when not under pressure. Catalog these normal activities and actions. This will make it easier to recognize that opponent’s unusual actions when in hand.

Carefully study your opponent in poker.

Are they talkative? Even when not engaged in a hand, do they watch everyone at the table, or play Candy Crush or watch what’s happening on the TVs hanging from the walls and ceilings in most card rooms?

Use your own in-hand time to gain valuable knowledge about each player, what they do under non-stressful conditions, and what they do when active in hand.

If you want to see how the best poker players deal with stress, check out our collection of the best players in the world competing in the best H2H poker clashes of all time below.

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2. Learn what a winning hand looks like

Poker room full of players

Now that you know how to study poker opponents and their habits, it’s time to take a closer look at the player you know best: yourself.

Have you considered your different emotions and physical sensations when you have a winning hand? Ten feet tall and covered in hair, right?

So now that you know how you feel, how obvious is your joy? Are you smiling? Are you discussing?

Now you know two things about tells: you know you have them, and that other people have them too.

Incidentally, if this is your first time considering your own emotions and your perception of others, this might be a good time to check out the psychology of poker.

3. Familiarize yourself with physical Tells

Many tells are unintentional. Blushing is a prime example of an involuntary tell. Shaky hands are also involuntary (usually, anyway). Even a contraction of the corner of the mouth is involuntary.

And the great thing about involuntary reactions is that humans have no way to stop them. So how to spot poker opponents and study poker player tendencies should include cataloging the unintentional acts of your opponents.

But even controllable actions such as general body language can be a good source of information. Someone with a strong hand tends to be relaxed and confident – ​​and those relaxed, confident people tend to make eye contact much more often than those who are stressed.

Some experts claim that there are hundreds of physical signs, from covering your mouth while playing to cracking your fingers.

Any action or reaction can be revealing. Blushes, grimaces, tremors, and sudden bursts of inane conversation can be seen as tell-tale. The key is to understand what it is telling us.

Is it a smirk of triumph or panic? Are those shaking hands a sign of a neurological disorder or a sign of a pair of aces that match the two that just fell?

4. Recognizing Tells Involving Chips

If your opponent studies your chip stack before betting – or asks the dealer to calculate how many chips are in your stack – then chances are your opponent is trying to bully you into checking or folding.

Another classic tell (according to poker expert Mike Caro) occurs when a player reaches their chip stack a moment after you have started collecting your chips to bet.

The player expects your bet to match (or even raise it) and is eager to join the battle.

Where is he?

Think about it.

If he had such a strong hand, why would he do anything to discourage you from placing your bet?

Your interpretation of this act of anticipation should be that Mr. Impatient is hoping to scare you off by making you check or fold on his weak hand.

5. Recognizing Tells Involving Bets

One of the most classic tells is the sudden all-in on the turn of the river. An all-in invariably announces that the player believes he has the nutz and is a challenge to anyone who might disagree.

But why would a player make such a drastic move? If your opponent wanted you to put more money in the pot, he would 3-bet. An all-in at this point in the hand is probably an attempt to make you fold.

Consider how your opponent played the hand until he went all-in. If there is something rotten in Denmark, consider calling the bluff.

6. Anticipate contraindications


There are dozens of great books and hundreds of articles online about poker and its interpretation. Guess what that means.

Alright, I’ll spoil the suspense and tell you what this means: everyone has access to this storytelling information and even now uses it to practice acting out fake “says” to confuse you.

That guy whose hands were shaking as he put down his pocket cards? Is it old age, nervousness, or cunning deception at work?

A player with a weak hand may act relaxed and confident, making eye contact with everyone. On the contrary, a player with a steady hand may shake visibly.

7. Know Your Online Tells

Okay, you know how to study the habits of poker players. But online poker rooms don’t show us faces, body language or even nervous chatter. But even online, tell exist. They mainly relate to betting irregularities and elapsed time, so take the time to study the habits of poker players both in the real world and online.

Speaking of which, you can practice recognizing online poker tells at the best US online casino. In the meantime, here are some apparent clues you’ll find online.

Using the Check/Fold Option

Most online poker rooms have an option where a player can get an automatic check or fold a hand. This often indicates a weak player (although some clever opponents will use this feature to suggest they are weak).

It is possible to raise and watch a cascade of insta-folds handing you the pot.

Overbet all-in on the river

It’s almost always a strong hand, and it’s done because you bet on the river, and now your opponent is challenging you to match his all-in overbet.

Unless you’re sure you have the absolute nutz, it’s probably a good idea to deduct your bet from the cost of playing poker and folding.

Complain and/or rant about a bad beat in the chat box

This player wants everyone to know that he is a poker pro and that he was only beaten because some asshole chased a flush to the river and beat his set.

This is a very good indication that the moan is about to go full blast. Respond accordingly.

Don’t tell me stories

The one crucial takeaway from this blog is that no one wants to discourage you from betting when they have the nutz.

This means that if they take an action that would make you think twice about betting, you are almost certainly dealing with a weak hand.

Study your poker opponent until you can easily identify these tells. Also, carefully study your opponent in poker.

Trust me; your wins will be bigger and your losses more manageable.

One final note – be sure to practice all your poker skills regularly. You can do it from the comfort of your home office or even your phone at any of our top online poker sites.

Good luck!