Joe Navarro answers your questions: May 2009



Since I log more time playing on the Internet than live, I find my “tells” on other players are much more based on the whole story of their betting. I know I transfer this strategy to live play, too, more than focusing on physical tells. Is there any advice for reading online players, who can’t be seen? Also, when playing live I’m often playing with people who are used to playing online, so what physical tells would Internet players have while playing in person that live-only players don’t have? — BERNICEQ VIA THE ANTE UP FORUM

I have talked to Greg Raymer at length about players who play online vs. live and what you can tell. He tells me, and he would know as he plays more than eight hours per day, that there are betting-pattern tells, but that is about it. One thing I’ve noticed is online players are weak in the area of tells. Because of that, I would say try to read more about tells, educate yourself and before you play at a casino take the time to study the tables, which is what I do. Just for an hour at a time you will learn a lot. One way I teach is to pick a tell, such as lip-pursing, and see if you can identify it and work with it. Once you learn to work with one tell, you move on. I find that’s the best way to teach to those who play online, which unfortunately negates the human factor to a limited degree.

I have been implementing your advice on concealing nonverbal behavior from my opponents by taking up a posture where I place my hands in front of my mouth, place my thumbs under my chin, bring my arms fairly close together to block my neck, wear a baseball cap and look slightly downward to conceal my eyes. However, I’m finding this position seems to be affecting the way I feel at the table. I feel less confident and more passive and my play takes on these characteristics. With the way the brain works, can such positioning affect one in this manner and, if so, what can one do to overcome such an effect? — TOM JENNINGS

Tom, that’s a very good question. We can be affected by how we sit and posture, something NASA discovered early on in the process of developing astronauts. There are some whose mood will be severely altered depending on how they sit and so forth, which can be manipulated to make someone feel better.

In your case, I would recommend changing back to something you were doing before, perhaps this time, if you merely restrain your hands in such a way that they conceal thoughts and remember that your mouth can communicate also, perhaps you can find an alternate way to sit that won’t reveal so much and will allow you to be comfortable.

— 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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