Two timing tells to exploit in live poker games

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If you are getting back onto the live felt, bencb has two reliable tells to look out for that amateurs make all the time.


Do you remember the famous scene in the movie Rounders where Teddy KGB out-flops Mike McDermott’s top two pair with a straight, but Mike lays down his hand because he spots Teddy’s Oreo tell?

Well, don’t do that.

Live tells can definitely be useful in influencing your decisions, but you can’t just start laying down the absolute top hands in your range because your opponent ate a cookie.

As a general rule, unless you’ve been playing with your opponent forever and know their game inside and out, you should mostly use live tells when you have a very close decision and need something to sway you one way or the other.

Here we’ll go over two timing tells that you’ve probably seen before at the tables, and break down how you should adjust your play to exploit them.

The speed folder


Who knew folding was a race?

Once the cards are dealt preflop, everyone usually rushes to check their hands and see what luck has brought them. Many players, upon finding a less than desirable pair of rags, will pick up their cards and get ready to let them go before action arrives at them.

While we all know the frustration of looking down at 92o for the fifth time in a session, this is a very obvious tell that can be easily exploited.

Whenever it is your turn to act and you have a hand that is pretty borderline between raising and folding, take a quick glance at what the players next to act are doing.

Are they picking up their cards, anxiously waiting to fold?

If you’re in the Cutoff and notice that the player on the Button is about to let his hand go, this is a clear sign that you can raise a lot more hands than normal because 9/10 times you’ll be last to act postflop (basically on the button).

This means that you can raise around 50%-60% of hands like you would on the button, instead of the 30% you’d normally raise from the Cutoff.

Furthermore, the blinds will defend like you are raising a Cutoff range, when in reality you can play like you’re on the Button due to the information you gained by looking at your trigger-happy opponent.

The speed caller/checker


Another trigger-happy tell, the speed checker and speed caller usually want one thing and one thing only: To get to a cheap showdown.

Look for this tell postflop, usually on the turn or the river. You place a bet and your opponent immediately calls, or you check and your opponent snap-checks back.

This is a clear sign that your opponent doesn’t have a strong hand!

Think about it, if they had a monster wouldn’t they at least consider betting or raising?

Chances are your opponent has a marginal made hand and simply wants to get to a cheap showdown.

Make sure in this scenario that you don’t play along and make super quick actions as well. Take your time and think their range through, then decide on the optimal bet you can make to get a call from their perceived weaker range.

If you have a bluff, proceed with caution here! These players will generally be very sticky and want to see what you’ve got. While they won’t make a bet themselves they’re very likely to call too much and have little regard for your bet sizings.

When bluffing here, make sure that the turn is a scare card (like an ace) that may cause them to fold a bit more. Also make sure that you still have some equity in the hand and are drawing to something when betting the turn.

If the turn isn’t a scare card and you don’t have much equity it may be best to just give up.

Tell takeaways

Speedy actions in live poker typically mean that your opponent has a medium strength hand or worse, since they would probably think about raising a very strong hand for at least a second or two.

Take these tells with a grain of salt and don’t rely on them absolutely. Rather, use them to sway your decision making one way or the other when you’re unsure of how to continue.

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