Targeted poker quiz 36: Tells (advanced)


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. This 39-part series of quizzes, originally published (2004-2006) in Poker Player, is based on the Mike Caro University of Poker library of research and advice. In each entry, Mike Caro presents 10 questions covering a category of poker, targeted for beginner, intermediate, or advanced players. Answers with explanations appear below each quiz, with the questions repeated for easy reference.


The MCU Targeted Poker Quiz series

(See the index to this series)

Tells (level: advanced)

  1. When you haven’t been able to spot a tell from a player on the current hand, you’re more likely to see a last-second one if you make your opponent aware that you’re watching.

    (a) true;

    (b) false.

  2. If you hold a medium-strong hand on the final betting round and a player makes a large wager while humming softly, you should reach toward your chips and…

    (a) fold if he keeps humming ;

    (b) call if he stops humming;

    (c) make sure he notices that your call may be imminent;

    (d) all of the above.

  3. Players who complain about missing a lot of flushes in a row are likely to…

    (a) bluff if they miss another one;

    (b) surrender if they miss another one and throw their cards away in a secretive manner;

    (c) surrender if they miss another one and show their futile cards to you, proving that they missed again;

    (d) act confident and expect to make a flush the very next time they have the opportunity

  4. In general, the sadder the voice accompanying an announced bet, the weaker the hand…

    (a) true;

    (b) false

  5. It’s usually safe to bet a medium-strong hand if…

    (a) your opponent is threatening to call;

    (b) your opponent doesn’t seem to be paying much attention;

    (c) your opponent hasn’t looked at his final seven-card stud card yet;

    (d) none of the above.

  6. There are almost no tells in big-limit games…

    (a) true;

    (b) false..

  7. Relative to sophisticated players, weak players tend to…

    (a) bluff with extra force when placing the wager;

    (b) overact;

    (c) bet extra sadly when holding big hands;

    (d) all of the above

  8. Which of the following enhances your chance of being called?

    (a) Shifting about noticeably in your seat;

    (b) Knocking over a stack of your chips;

    (c) Babbling mindlessly;

    (d) All of the above

  9. Which is a sign that a player may have a weak hand…

    (a) The player is staring at his cards;

    (b) The player is staring away from you;

    (c) The player seems distracted;

    (d) The player is subtly moving his cards toward the dealer as if preparing to fold

  10. You’re more likely to spot profitable tells if you concentrate on just one or two players at a time…

    (a) true;

    (b) false.


Answers and explanations (with questions repeated for convenience)

Tells (level: advanced)

  1. When you haven’t been able to spot a tell from a player on the current hand, you’re more likely to see a last-second one if you make your opponent aware that you’re watching.

    (a) true;

    (b) false.

    Answer: (a) It’s true that if players know you’re scrutinizing them, they’re often more likely to try to deceive you, making an obvious tell more likely.

  2. If you hold a medium-strong hand on the final betting round and a player makes a large wager while humming softly, you should reach toward your chips and…

    (a) fold if he keeps humming ;

    (b) call if he stops humming;

    (c) make sure he notices that your call may be imminent;

    (d) all of the above.

    Answer: (d – all of the above) If you hold a medium-strong hand on the final round and are bet into by a player who’s humming softly, you can often discover whether to call or not. Try reaching for your chips, making certain your opponent notices, then folding if he keeps humming, and calling if he stops humming. Players who are bluffing are stressed, and you can increase their suspense by seeming as if you might call. At that moment, players who aren’t worried usually will carry on unperturbed, but players who are bluffing usually will become less animated and quieter.

  3. Players who complain about missing a lot of flushes in a row are likely to…

    (a) bluff if they miss another one;

    (b) surrender if they miss another one and throw their cards away in a secretive manner;

    (c) surrender if they miss another one and show their futile cards to you, proving that they missed again;

    (d) act confident and expect to make a flush the very next time they have the opportunity.

    Answer: (c) When players complain about missing a lot of hands in a row, they’re less likely to bluff if they miss another one. They’re more likely to seek sympathy by not betting and just showing you that they missed again.

  4. In general, the sadder the voice accompanying an announced bet, the weaker the hand…

    (a) true;

    (b) false.

    Answer: (b) It’s false that the sadder the voice announcing a bet, the weaker the hand. It’s just the opposite. Sounds of sadness mean strength.

  5. It’s usually safe to bet a medium-strong hand if…

    (a) your opponent is threatening to call;

    (b) your opponent doesn’t seem to be paying much attention;

    (c) your opponent hasn’t looked at his final seven-card stud card yet;

    (d) none of the above.

    Answer: (a) It’s usually safe to bet a medium-strong hand if your opponent is threatening to call.

  6. There are almost no tells in big-limit games…

    (a) true;

    (b) false.

    Answer: (b) Although people sometimes say there are almost no tells in big-limit games, that’s false. Tells abound everywhere. They may be more subtle and harder to spot among sophisticated players, but you’ll still see them often.

  7. Relative to sophisticated players, weak players tend to…

    (a) bluff with extra force when placing the wager;

    (b) overact;

    (c) bet extra sadly when holding big hands;

    (d) all of the above.

    Answer: (d – all of the above) Weak players, more than sophisticated players, tend to bluff with extra force, overact, and bet extra sadly with big hands.

  8. Which of the following enhances your chance of being called?

    (a) Shifting about noticeably in your seat;

    (b) Knocking over a stack of your chips;

    (c) Babbling mindlessly;

    (d) All of the above.

    Answer: (d – all of the above) Shifting in your seat, knocking over chips, and babbling mindlessly all increase your chances of being called.

  9. Which is a sign that a player may have a weak hand…

    (a) The player is staring at his cards;

    (b) The player is staring away from you;

    (c) The player seems distracted;

    (d) The player is subtly moving his cards toward the dealer as if preparing to fold.

    Answer: (a) A player staring at his cards usually gives indication that the hand is weak.

  10. You’re more likely to spot profitable tells if you concentrate on just one or two players at a time…

    (a) true;

    (b) false.

    Answer: (a) It’s true that you’re more likely to spot profitable tells by concentrating on just one or two players at a time. When you try to keep track of everyone’s behavior, you’ll often fail to spot the most compelling tells.


Next MCU Targeted Poker Quiz in this series

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6 thoughts on “Targeted poker quiz 36: Tells (advanced)”

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  1. Even if you are spot on when reading tells, you can’t control what the other players ends up doing when you make the obvious bet based on your reads. Yesterday, in a tournament, player on my right (SB) bet enough into me to put me all in pre. I read him as very weak and holding KQ suited I called. Everyone else folded. I picked off his bluff since he was holding Q-8 os. Flop came 3, 7, 8. X, X turn and river and I was gone. I was what? 80% pre? My good read cost me.

  2. In question 1, you explain that if the player realizes your scrutinizing them they have more of a chance of giving off a last second tell; HOWEVER, as you say in “Book of Poker Tells”, usually when that player see’s your paying attention, their more likely to give off a reverse tell “Tell’s from Actors” section. Idk maybe you should re-emphasize, just a thought.

    1. Hi, Steven —

      Good observation there.

      But I think both concepts are true. In the absence of any tell and when in a borderline situation, it doesn’t hurt to try to force some sign from an opponent. Generally, though, you should try to go about your tell spotting inconspicuously.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  3. Do you have any advice for how to select whom to observe? The most intimidating player, I guess. Being physically in your line of site, and not disarmingly attractive seem like pluses.

    Any thoughts on how active they are? If they’re, say, always rubbing the sides of their head to make their hair stand up, and making weird noises, legitimate tells might get swallowed by noise. OTOH if they do the Durrrr open-mouthed zombie stare, well; if you get a tell on that guy you’d really have it. But a practiced stoic seems likely to be mroe difficult for an amateur observer.

    1. The people on your immediate left are the one you usually want to look for tells in. Maniacs also, if you have one at your table. Most tells are in how they place a bet I find, if he tries to make it look intimidating or the opposite. How they react to a card, too, but people seem to know to keep a “poker Face” while in a hand.

      If you can get them to talk, think about what you did that got them to talk and see what they’re trying to induce from you when they answer.

      Practiced stoics give as much tells, they’re just a bit harder to extract. It’s impossible to play a hand trough without subconsciously giving something off.

      1. a) the player who’s got the best position, and
        b) the player in the most hands.

        Seems kindof obvious once said! Thank you.

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