Pre-Game Online Tells by Taylor Caby

When most poker players think about tells, they visualize physical actions that occur at the table. For example, the way an opponent’s hands start shaking whenever he has the nuts or the way he handles his chips in certain situations. Online players don’t have this sort of information to work with, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tells in online play. There’s actually a great deal of information that an observant player can pick up on, and much of it can be discovered before you even sit down at a table. I call these important first impressions “pre-game tells.”

One of the most important pre-game tells is the size of your opponent’s buy-in. Whenever I sit down at a table, the first thing I look at is how much my opponents have bought in for in relation to the maximum amount allowed at that table. Most advanced players tend to buy in for as close to the table maximum as possible. They prefer to have as many chips on the table as they can, which gives them plenty of ammunition for bullying their opponents, bluffing, and semi-bluffing.

Weaker and inexperienced players are more inclined to buy in for a much smaller amount, often closer to the table minimum. By buying in short, weaker players are hoping to protect themselves from suffering a huge loss. What they don’t realize is that the more experienced players at the table are going to pick up on this sign of weakness. When I’m selecting a table, these are the types of players I’m looking to sit next to because they generally play scared. Be careful, though, because there are players who buy in for less than the table maximum that are actually winning players.

When you’re playing on Full Tilt Poker, you can also gauge how experienced your opponents are by simply looking around the table and observing if any of the players possess an Iron Man chip. This chip is awarded to players who play a certain amount of hands each day, in effect rewarding them for being grinders. Because these players play so often, they have spent many hours working on their games and they tend to be some of the better players on the site. If you are able to earn an Iron Man chip yourself, you may consider removing the icon so you don’t advertise that you are a serious player.

Another way to find more information about the players sitting at your table is to use Full Tilt Poker’s “Find a Player” feature. Simply click on the “Requests” tab in the lobby, select “Find a Player” and then type in your opponents’ screen names. By doing this, you can find out how many tables each of your opponents is sitting at, which can be an extremely telling bit of information. If one of your opponents is multi-tabling, playing at four or more tables at once, he will generally be a solid player, and quite often you will find that players who play this many tables at once are professionals.

When you add all this information together, it can tell you a great deal about a certain player’s level of experience. If the player you’re interested in bought in for the maximum amount, is sporting an Iron Man chip next to his avatar and is playing at eight tables at once, all signs point towards him being a very solid player, which is something you should keep in mind when you are playing a pot against this player. If most of the table fits this description, you might even consider selecting a different table to play at. On the other hand, if a player bought in for half of the maximum buy-in, doesn’t have an Iron Man Chip, and is only playing at one table, chances are he’s an inexperienced player and you’ll probably want to play as many pots with him as you can.

Because all of this information can be gleaned before you even play a single hand, you would be wise to use it when deciding which table you want to play at. Doing this will greatly increase your chances of having a winning session.

Taylor Caby