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People often talk when they are at the poker table. Some of this is normal, unavoidable, nothing to be concerned about — but sometimes it is better to be quiet and observe your opponent’s actions in order to see where you stand in a game. Talking can limit your ability to interpret what you see and reduce your opportunities to learn crucial pieces of information about the people sitting across from you.

And, of course, “sitting across from you” can be literal, or refer to opponents in an online setting. There are some tips that can only truly apply when you play poker in the flesh, and some that are more likely when you are playing at one of our recommended online poker sites.

The next time you sit down and play, make a promise to yourself that you won’t talk for the first hour (except for casual conversation) and see what happens. Make sure to notice things like a player’s sitting position during a hand; sometimes slouching can mean a weaker hand, while sitting at attention may mean a big hand. Train your ears to catch changes of inflection — some people’s voices crack while under pressure, and this may be an alarm bell when they raise.

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In the end, nine times out of ten, unless you are someone like Daniel Negreanu or Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, you’ll likely give off more information than you learn when you are in chat mode. Sometimes the best policy is to stay quiet and focused by avoiding small talk. One thing is for certain, the less information you give off and the more information you pick up will definitely add to your chances of being a winning player.

Online, this type of communication will be less overt, so be sure to pay some attention to the rhythm coming from the avatars and the chat box in your game interface. You may indeed have an audio chat going, where you’ll hear your opponents speak, but more likely you’ll be in a text-only conversation with the rest of the table. If you notice a player’s responses slowing down or speeding up, keep an eye on them. It may mean nothing, or it may be the virtual “tell” that makes all the difference.

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