Poker is a serious business – especially when your money is on the table. So it’s important to understand what tells are all about. It’s especially important to recognize your own tells before you sit down at a table.

There are some tells that not even a professional poker player can control, and they will take extreme precautions to try to hide. But learning to spot your own tells, and those of the other players, will help you to improve your game.

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Shaking hands, cracking voice, or avoidance of eye contact are tells. Pay attention to the way an opponent places their chips in the pot. Do they count them out, push in a stack or splash the pot? The chip shuffler may give away a tell by how fast or slow they shuffle at various points in the action. Attire of the players may also be a tell. Since you will be sitting for long periods of time, comfort is key. Here’s an example: what are the guys in the business suits at the casino telling you? Are they just killing an hour for lunch playing lower stakes? It may be a short work break or winning may not even be an issue.

Tells are not just given away by body language – your body may also be giving your opponents an advantage that you may not realize. A sweating brow or an increase in the pulse of your neck will give your opponents an insight into the strength of your hand. It is very difficult to regulate your pulse when you look down at pocket aces in the hole, or to keep the sweat from beading on your brow when you bet into an aggressive player. Now you know a few things to look for, but what are these signs telling you and the other players at the table?

First you must recognize a tell, and then decipher what it means. The answer, of course, depends on whether they are solid or weak, tight or loose, passive or aggressive, bluffs or is easily bluffed, and if they are predictable or if they change gears often. Your observations of your opponent’s play will be your best asset to assess the tell and how it relates to the hand at play.

No good player will knowingly show you the strength of their hand. They will wear hats, sunglasses or shirts with high collars to disguise their weaknesses. Paying attention to the clues that they are unaware of will give you the winning edge to take down more pots.

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