Joe Navarro answers your questions: Feb. 2009



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

Are there any questions you can ask a player to provoke a tell? One question I ask players when trying to make a decision is, “Smile if you have a monster.” If they give a fake smile I know they are bluffing. If their eyes light up then they usually have a very good hand. Thanks.— Mike in Minneapolis

Mike that’s a great one, I wish I had thought of it. Here are a few I like:

“Are you bluffing?”
“What have you got?”
“Want me to call you?”
“Would you lie to me?”
“You trying to hurt me?”
“You’re weak aren’t you?”

Or say this: “Let me see your thumbs.” In all of these, any kind of tension, nervousness or lack of confidence is a sign of weakness.

Over the past few months I have noticed an increase with players showing their hands heads-up when considering calling to gain information. In Super System, Doyle Brunson talks about showing pocket aces to gain information. Back when dinosaurs were used as dealers Doyle doesn’t give any advice but makes an interesting statement saying “It would take a strong man not to show some kind of emotion.” Unless you’re playing in a home game with the same regulars showing your hand to a particular opponent usually is a one-time occurrence. After reading your book and watching your videos there are many ways a person can react to seeing exposed cards. There is an element of surprise showing hands that may catch your opponent off guard. I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject. — Joe Giertuga, via email

Joe, obviously you have given this a lot of thought and thank you for reading my book. My philosophy is this: Never expose your cards; never reveal anything, especially in tournament play. You don’t want to be up against someone who is an expert at reading nonverbals and will use your information against you. Joe, showing your cards for effect may not elicit the right information you want. It exposes you too much, and there is one thing to consider, you have not been reading your own tells while playing. So, for these reasons I say don’t do it. Daniel Negreanu, who I just saw last recently in Barcelona, spoke with me about this. He said he likes to do it every once in a while, to get information. To which I would say, I am no Daniel Negreanu.

— 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 Email Joe at and he’ll answer your questions.

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