Chapter 34: Timing Tells in Online Poker
You’ve read about tells in books. You’ve heard about it on TV. It’s one of the most glamorous and talked about aspects of live poker: being able to pick something up from your opponent about the strength or weakness of their hand from an aspect other than the action of the hand.
We obviously lose this physical aspect when we play on the virtual felt of the online table. However, there are tells that exist and they involve the timing of how fast your opponent makes his decisions. These tells are not to be relied on very heavily and my understanding of them has only come with a lot of experience.
I’ll describe some of the more reliable timing tells I’ve noticed in my career:
The timing of a check-minraise. You’ll get check-minraised a lot. Sometimes it’s the pure nuts, sometimes it’s absolutely nothing and sometimes it’s top pair no kicker. While it’s often hard to tell which one of these a check min-raise is, I have found a somewhat reliable timing tell depending on how quickly you are check-minraised.
#1. You raise from the button. The BB, a 40/10/2 fish calls. He checks the flop and you continuation bet. He instantly check-minraises you.
#2. You raise from the button. The BB, a 40/10/2 fish calls. He checks the flop and you continuation bet. He thinks for five seconds and check-minraises you.
I have found #1 to be a bluff a much higher percent of the time than #2. When someone instantly check-minraises you, it is much more likely they are trying to pick off your continuation bet than trying to sucker you in with a real hand. Think of it this way: they had the move pre-planned before you bet. They think you have nothing and don’t even need to think about what to do when you bet. They’re taking a stand this time. Whereas when someone thinks for five seconds and check-minraises, they’re either trying to disguise their hand and are not trying to look too eager to raise, or they waited to see what you bet so they could act upon your bet with their big hand. When someone has flopped a set, they want to analyze their opponents bet before they act and decide upon the right decision. Also, most opponents feel if they instantly act, they are looking too eager to play the hand.
This timing tell isn’t 100% accurate, but I have found it to be true enough to consider it every time I am check-minraised. When it comes to close decisions, this can be the tipping point to lead to one decision over the other.
“I have top pair and know I’m calling down.” There are often spots where someone has flopped top pair against a preflop raiser and he knows he is calling down. He at least knows he is calling the next street. He feels there’s no option to either fold or raise, so the call is automatic. His big flaw is he tends to instantly call the next bet. Instantly. This can tip off me off, since I know if he had a big hand like a set or two pair he would have at least thought about raising.
For example, say you raise KsKh from the CO. The button, a 30/10/2 who is an OK but losing player calls. The flop comes down Qs7d7h. You bet a 4/5 pot continuation bet and your opponent quickly calls. The turn is the 4s. You bet 2/3 pot and your opponent instantly calls. In this spot, your opponent is giving away his hand. If he had a 7, he would think about if he should raise or not. Thus, on the river you can play perfectly against him and make a large value bet since he has top pair and seems to like it.
This can hold true for draws as well. Many players know they are just going to call their flush draw so they instantly call after you bet. It’s most important to know that almost all the time, when someone instantly calls your bets, it is NOT a big hand.
Not giving off timing tells yourself
It’s very important you avoid giving off any timing tells yourself. It’s tempting to quickly call in those top pair situations because you know what you’re going to do. However, some players can pick up on these types of spots so it’s best to act with the same amount of time in every decision (except in those hands that require some tough thinking).
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