Joe Navarro answers your questions: Jan. 2009

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Readers are invited to send Joe their questions regarding nonverbal tells to
editor@anteupmagazine.com and we’ll print the best letters.

Joe, thanks so much for your generous time with us in the Ante Up Nation. I’d like to know if there are suggestions for sending out false tells. In other words, what are some basic things we can do to pretend we are weak/strong, etc.? I unwittingly gave a false tell last week in a cash game. I was strong (top two pair) but this huge guy stared me down so hard that I looked away kinda sheepishly because just his look was intimidating. He immediately pushed all-in and when I called he was shocked. I won the hand and more chips and I really think it’s because my physical signs were of weakness. Certainly I realize traditional thinking states that “weak means strong, and strong means weak” so one has to be careful here when trying to send a false tell. What are your thoughts?
— Jerram

Jerram, thank you for your comments and for your story. I love stories like this because they show you’re reading your opponents as well as yourself and that’s terrific. Signs of weakness can be very subtle, looking away, biting your lip, wringing your hands, licking your lower lip, touching your neck, etc. When done properly they can make the observer believe you’re very weak. I’ve worked with pros on this, and just two weeks ago, one called from the table he was playing in Los Angeles just to say he had used it and it worked. He had trips after the flop, and when his opponent raised, he sat there and massaged his neck as if he were, and these are his words, at a “spa.” Reluctantly, and without making eye contact, he called. The other guy had a pair. I would not hesitate to look weak, but do it subtly – that’s the key.

The following happened to me at Binions. It was a six-max tourney and  I played the first few hands aggressively and had taken down a few small pots. I got KQ and raised. There was one caller to my right and the flop came queen-high. He checked and I bet. Then the guy suddenly shifted his entire stack in. He had one long stack and very quickly kind of “threw” it all in. My first thought was he didn’t believe me because I had taken down the last few pots already and he was “taking a stand.” He didn’t say anything after that, he just sat very still and looked a little nervous. I was pretty sure he was weak, but online this would be a good fold nine out of 10 times. So I folded and showed my KQ. The old man showed me K-10. Grrrrrrr! Was there really enough information for me out there to confidently make the call and risk my tournament life?
—Acehighness

You did the right thing. Better to make a mistake and stay in, than to do what I most often see, is to make a mistake and get completely taken out. I also would’ve folded. As I often say, if you’re not sure, do what is safe, which is why we go by statistics in the absence of any other information.

— Ex-FBI counterintelligence officer Joe Navarro of Tampa specialized in behavioral analysis for 25 years. He’s star lecturer with the WSOP Academy and has penned Read ’Em and Reap, which you can find on Amazon.com. Email Joe at editor@anteupmagazine.com and he’ll answer your questions.