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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Top-10 tells in poker

16 March 2009

The fastest way to poker riches is detecting your opponent's tells, and covering up your own. With that mind, we offer up our top-10 tells in poker:

10. Double-checking their hole cards

Generally, most players remember when they have a pocket pair. After all, how hard is it to forget you have pocket aces? But if a player checks his cards after the flop, he's probably checking to see if he hit his flush or straight draw, and that's a valuable piece of information to have.

9. The stare

If someone is staring you down, he probably doesn't have a strong hand, but is trying to act like he does.

8. Disinterest

If a players looks like he could care less as to whether or not he's in this hand, be vary – very wary. He probably has a strong hand, but doesn't want to show it. And he knows exactly were he is in the hand every step of the way, especially if he's hit the nuts on the flop. He doesn't have to think about his hand, and he wants you to mistake his nonchalance for weakness.

7. Chatter factor

Picking up this tell requires some work. Does a player talk more or less when they're weaker? It differs from player to player. Some players don't like to talk when they're bluffing. They're afraid others will pick up on their bluff, or they just don't like lying out loud. Others chatter up a storm when they're weak because they're nervous.

6. Facial expressions

This is at number six because these tells are huge, but most people figure out not give them in a hurry. Among beginners, eyes might bug out if they're dealt pocket rockets or scowls might appear if they're dealt the hammer for the fifth consecutive hand. It's one of the reasons why some players wear those ridiculous sunglasses and hoodies. They're so afraid of giving information away, and they don't trust themselves not to do it without the props.

5. Posture

Generally speaking, if a player is sitting back in their chair and looking comfortable, he has a good hand. And if a player leaning forward with elbows on the table, he has a weak hand.

4. Heavy breathers

Some players get so excited when they see a big hand, they start breathing harder, and they don't even know it. The adrenaline is pumping and they're trying hard to stay calm and figure out what to do with their ace-high flush, but their breathing gets a little quick on them and gives everything away.

3. The long call

One thing that happens commonly in games at all levels is that a player will take a long time to call a bet. And while they're deciding to call the bet, it looks like they're making all sorts calculations in their heads. Well, that's because they are. They're calculating pot odds seeing if it's worth calling even though they're on a draw. That's pretty good a piece of information to have as you move forward in the hand.

2. Premature chip glances

Ahh, yes. The premature chip glance. If your opponents catch you eyeing your chips (or their chips) before it's your turn to act, that's a sure sign you have a good starting hand. So remember, eyes forward. You'll have plenty of time to contemplate your bet when it's your action.

1. Trembling hands

This is another adrenaline tell. When a player is deal a good hand, the adrenaline starts pumping and the hands of undisciplined players start shaking. Trembling hands fumble the chips as the bet is made and give away the fact that a player has a very strong hand. This tell is a dead giveaway that's hard control, so it's number one in our list of tells. But remember this: you won't be able to spot this tell if you're playing a bunch of surgeons.

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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.