How To Use Timing Tells In Poker?

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Today’s question comes from Drew. Drew says, “Recently, I’ve been researching the topic of timing tells for online poker and I found there is not a whole lot of material on it. With the information I have found, it seems the author claims the tells only apply to players some of the time and it’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t in the long run. I know when observing a players’ tendencies this can be much easier, but against unknowns, are there any timing tells you have found to be consistent? Thanks.”

First and foremost, what is a timing tell? A timing tell is a piece of information we can glean based upon how long it’s taking our opponent to do something. If we find that a particular opponent is acting very fast on his big hands, very slow when he has weak hands, and in this particular hand he acts very quickly, we can estimate based upon that timing tell that he has a strong hand in this particular spot and that information can be very, very useful.

Hand reading plus interpreting tells will give you an advantage.

I’ll talk for a moment about what I look for when I’m looking for timing tells. One of the big things I’m trying to do quickly with everyone is establish a baseline. How long does it typically take them to make an action?

Let’s say we’re playing online and it typically takes someone two seconds to make an action. What I try to figure out next is what do the deviances mean? If they typically take two seconds and all of a sudden in this spot they take one second, does that mean something, or if they took say nine seconds, does that mean something? Oftentimes deviances, and especially big ones, do tend to mean something.

When you’re playing online, there are obviously a lot of things that can make this very inconsistent that are way out of your control and even out of your knowledge. For instance, say that you are in a spot and this person tends to act in 2 seconds and all of a sudden they take 11. Someone could have come into the room and distracted them, their internet may have dropped out, which may have been slowing up their decision making. Maybe that big deviance doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s really difficult and that’s why these kind of things are very inconsistent, but they can be very, very consistent when you’re playing live poker.

One of the big things I’m looking for in live poker is the Hollywood thing. Someone who looks like they’re just deliberating between whether they want to call or fold and then all of a sudden raises. That’s something that’s very easy to figure out, you understand all the distractions that are in their life and in their game right at that moment because you’re looking at them so you can see what they’re doing.

If someone decides to make that Hollywood action, typically that tends to be a very, very strong hand, it’s a very reliable read, especially against someone that you don’t deem as a strong player, so definitely make sure you’re looking for that one, if you’re playing in live games.

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If we switch our focus over to online play for a moment, there are a couple things that I want to talk about. As far as reliable reads or things that I’m heavily, heavily looking for, other than, again, establishing that baseline and figuring out what the deviances mean. One of the big things I look for is someone who all of a sudden times down a ton, say they’re taking now like 30, 40 seconds, they’ve hit the time bank, and then all of a sudden they raise, typically I kind of correlate that to the Hollywood in a live game. I tend to find that’s fairly reliable, especially amongst people that I don’t view as particularly strong players or unknowns, I tend to assume that that’s going to be a stronger hand.

Then the other thing I’m looking for are regs. If there’s a reg and I know this reg is playing a lot of tables, what am I thinking that he’s probably doing? He’s probably looking for the tables that have big hands and he’s paying more attention to those. When he’s paying more attention is he acting quicker or slower? Probably quicker, right, because he has that table up, he’s paying attention to it, he knows what he’s going to do, he’s thinking about that hand.

If all of a sudden I’m in a spot and this reg acts very, very quickly, I tend to assume it’s because he is paying attention to that table because he likes his hand more.

If I’m playing with a reg and all of a sudden it takes him a very long time to make a decision, usually what I think is that person is checking their HUD, they’re looking through all their stats trying to figure out if they can have the information to make a tricky play. Maybe it’s a light 3-bet or a light 4-bet or something like that.

Don’t be easy to read… unless you want to be!

Occasionally, he is going to be running some sort of Hollywood-type play and yes, I’m going to run myself into a monster, but typically that tends to be a not-so-strong hand that’s just seeing if he can get away with making a certain play. I tend to find that that’s pretty consistent when you’re playing online. Just because, again, if someone has a hand or a table that they’re excited about, they tend to pay more attention to it and they tend to act faster. If all of a sudden it’s taking them a long time, like in a re-steal spot, or a light 4-bet spot, definitely keep that in mind.

The last thing I want to touch on, and this is for online players specifically, is the software TimeMojo. TimeMojo is an excellent piece of software that you can use for online play and essentially what it does is it starts developing those baselines that I was mentioning, but it does it for you automatically and it does it for you per action and it does it for you per street and it’s extremely, extremely useful.

If you’re interested in kind of getting more information on that, and especially in a very automated way, I would definitely suggest checking it out. Even better, it will randomize your time as well so that you aren’t giving away timing tells, which is super, super crucial and helpful. They also have a free trial, so I would definitely suggest checking them out if you haven’t already and just see if it works for you.

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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