I've lost count of the number of times I've heard newcomers to the game of Texas Holdem say to me "how can you have a poker tell online?" Many believe success is due to the cards alone because you can't see you opponents across the other side of the table. Such attitudes, combined with the speed of play (online poker is much faster than the land based poker game) make it a more profitable place for those that have taken the time to learn the signals.
Here's my top 10 poker tells that you need to pick up on:
1) Weak is strong - The most common of all poker tells and one you'll have heard many times before. If you have a hand you are betting and your opponent is simply calling you down then you are probably in trouble. Calling down large bets is more commonly an indication of over-cards or a hidden set.
2) Timing - A lot can be read into timing. I would actually be more accurate in naming this tell "false timing" to give the impression of thought, or indecision. In its most common form you find this poker tell combining with the first point. Players who wait for a period, often going into their online time bank to send out the required impression before calling. This action hardly ever indicates indecision - your opponent has you beaten, you just don't realise it yet.
3) Players that use the instant call button - You often see this in online poker play and, more often than not, it indicates players who have no hand but who are looking to catch cards. They are impatient to get on to the next set of hands. Raise it up and watch them fold.
4) Frequent aggressive betting pre-flop - Usually this indicates a quality player who recognises that aggression is the way to go. The exception are players who act in this way at the start of large No Limit Texas Holdem Tournaments where this signifies a player who does not have the requisite 5-6 hours required to make it to the end of the game. If you are fortunate to receive large starting cards put them out of their misery early. Returning to the players who re-raise by decent amounts each hand.
It is likely that you need to be prepared to go all-in with whichever hand you chose to call a flop (at some expense) and top pair would be my recommendation for proceeding. The biggest and common mistake people make against these players is to call down bets while attempting to catch cards. You will pay dearly for those extra cards. Don't be intimidated by this playing style (it is unusual), simply wait for the big starting hand and slow play it to maximise value.
5) Players that are multi-tabling - You can't do this in a land based card room, but it is more common than you may expect online. If you play for any duration at the same poker room you'll see player names time and again and realise they are playing up to six Texas Holdem tables at once. Amateur poker players do not multi-table so you need to avoid these players at all cost. They often operate under names that are difficult to remember such as "cra5313t"
6) Players who are using "Table Position." Table position is arguably the most important concept in Texas Holdem Poker. It is surprising to me that most people playing today know little or nothing about it. It won't take long however to see betting based on table position alone (2 or more bets from late position usually being all you need to confirm it). This tells you that the player making the move is an accomplished poker player and should be treated as such.
7) The check then re-raise: One of the most clear tells you'll ever see, especially when employed after the turn card. A check then re-raise is the clearest signal of hand strength that you can give online. When this happens to you then it is important you realise that your opponent is maximising the value of his hand. The fact that this strategy is such a clear Texas Holdem Tell means it can be employed as an effective bluffing strategy (although I've only ever seen it deployed against me as a person with a genuinely strong hand telling me what he has). The check re-raise used as a bluff works best where the Turn Card makes 3 suited cards to a flush. If you check then go for a medium to large re-raise you'll probably steal the pot. If your re-raise is called then unfortunately for you your opponent has already made the flush you are pretending to hold!
8) People who do not post blinds immediately upon arriving at a table. You won't often see players joining a table in this way (joining but not immediately entering the action). Where you do notice it you should have respect for the player as it is a sign of a) good bankroll management, b) a multi-tabling player who is occupied elsewhere, or c) someone quietly observing the play before joining. This Poker Tell shows intelligence which you need to associate with a high quality player.
9) Date in Name - Quite often you will see players who've chosen a name like "Jack1983". Usually these players tried to play as "Jack" at the point of signing up and having been rejected for that name they couldn't think of an alternative. The date of birth gives you information you shouldn't have. In this case your opponent is 23 years old and certainly won't have the experience to play like Doyle Brunson.
10) Table chat - My final Poker Tell is a lucrative source of information in the online poker world. A surprising number of people want to coach each others play based on the observation of a single hand they just won. The best form of table chat is observing the people that swear (software often cuts out such chat with **** or other marks). The people clearly lack etiquette but also intelligence. If you don't mind the comments they are easily put on tilt with a few choice observations about their vocabulary skills. Players on tilt almost always lose to a slow played large starting hand against an enemy they are desperate to prove a point against. Enjoy!