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Reverse Tell

What is a ‘Reverse Tell’?

A ‘reverse tell’ is a signal given out by a player deliberately in an attempt to disguise the reality of their hand or situation. It is part of the complicated bluff strategies involving body language and behaviour, and usually involves a player making a subtle gesture commonly associated with a strong hand or a weak one, tricking another player into thinking it was a real and involuntary sign.

‘Reverse Tell’ Explained

When playing poker, the luck of the deal is just one part of making a win. Players must work out which cards the other players are likely to have, and weigh up how strong their hand is against the size of the pot and how the opponents are reacting to it. One of the ways players analyse the actions of others is through watching their body language. People are known to give off subtle, unconscious signals (known as ‘tells’) when they pull a good or bad hand. Watching for these little involuntary signs can help a player take advantage of an opponent.

However, players often give out ‘reverse tells’. These are purposeful attempts to mislead other players, by using known ‘tells’ to their advantage. A player might raise an eyebrow briefly or make a slight frown in order to have another player believe they have drawn a bad hand, or smile for a second to suggest a good card has appeared. Using reverse tells is a complex strategy – it involves understanding the psychology behind behaviour signals, and then using it to their advantage – while also hiding any real ‘tells’ that the player might have. It is therefore a risky strategy, but it can complement other playing techniques and assist in pulling off a brave (or reckless) bluff on a particularly weak hand.