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  • June 1, 2020

Timing is Everything

If you’ve ever played real, live poker, or even watched a good game on television, you know that acting is a huge part of the game. Mannerisms, facial expressions, tone of voice–all can be a clue to what cards you are holding, or a brilliant misdirection to lead you to fleecing your opponents. If you watch professional poker players, most wear sunglasses to keep their eyes from giving away a look of surprise, excitement or disappointment, and some even wear elaborate costumes to hide their face or otherwise distract their opponents.In online poker, however, you and your opponent can’t see each other, so how can you hope to guess at the strength of their cards or disguise the strength of your own? The answer may lie in timing.
All online poker games have a time limit of some kind on how long you can take to bet, call or raise. The time limit can be anywhere from 15 or 20 seconds up to several minutes. Usually, if you don’t complete an action in that time period, the computer will either check or fold for you, depending on the situation. The natural human tendency is to act quickly on a decisive hand, good or bad, and either fold or raise instantly based on what the cards are screaming at you to do. Similarly, the tendency would be to take your time and ponder a hand that is not so strong or weak. How well you manage these tendencies will go a long way toward determining how successful you are at the table.
If you are facing a player who appears to be a complete novice at poker in every way, it is usually safe to assume that their reactions are genuine and that a quick raise means a great hand. Against a more experienced player, it’s best to look for more subtle tells throughout the game. Do they always bet more quickly when they’re bluffing? Look for patterns in how long they take based on the strength of their hand,but also be aware that if they are experienced, they may purposely change the pattern at a very inopportune time.
In terms of your own timing, think of what poker players do in a live game to mask their intentions. The goal is always to prevent a blank slate, to give no information to your opponent. The way to do that in timing is to try to take the exact same amount of time for each bet. You can use a stopwatch or an egg timer if you want, but most poker sites will give an elapsed time readout or a progress bar to help. If you want to get fancy, you can occasionally try to set up more inexperienced players by creating a “false tell”, maybe taking until the last minute to ponder a call when you know you’ve got the winning hand. If you want to weed out some lightweight players early in a tournament, you can take the maximum time allowed for every decision, slowing the game down and making some players get frustrated and perhaps make stupid mistakes. Just remember, everything you do in poker is being watched–only share the information you want to share.

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