I recently went on the Ante Up Poker Cruise and got involved in a hand with a woman who was new to the game. I had pocket aces and raised preflop. The flop came with a paired board and two clubs. I bet and she re-raised me. It was an emphatic raise; she slammed the chips into the felt. Then I noticed her breathing heavily. I thought long and hard about it and made the call for all of my chips. She had flopped trips and I was out. Was she nervous because she knew she was taking down a big pot? When she slammed the chips it seemed like she was trying to force me out, plus I used the strong-means-weak reasoning. I got it all wrong, but can you tell me the mistake I made with my reading of her non-verbals? — WILLIAM, VIA EMAIL
The woman was breathing heavily and she slammed her chips into the felt. Anything we do that requires a lot of energy (slamming down chips) is an emotional exclamation. It means she feels strongly about what she perceives she has. The heavy breathing takes place as part of oxygenating when we have something “good” going our way. I notice you don’t mention her face. Perhaps there were cues there of high comfort such as arched brows that said, “I feel strong and confident,” maybe her shoulders were relaxed and her torso leaning forward which would have meant, “I am strong and confident.” It’s not that it was a bad read, it’s that it wasn’t a perfect or complete read of her. Remember, you have to read the body, the whole body, not just the face or the hands.
— Ex-FBI counterintelligence officer Joe Navarro of Tampa specialized in behavioral analysis for 25 years. He’s a star lecturer with the WSOP Academy and has penned Read ’Em and Reap. Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll answer your questions.