Joe Navarro answers your questions: May 2010



Has there ever been a tell you saw on a poker player that you were positive meant one thing but later found out it was not that at all?  If so, what was it? — Bobby Burton, Baton Rouge, La.

Bobby, great question. Unfortunately yes, many times, and in each case I was reading the nonverbal just right, squinting eyes or compressed lips, neck touching, but the cause behind it was not what I thought. These tells I just mentioned are all indicative of stress or concern, and I read the players as marginal or weak. What I didn’t realize was these individuals were overanalyzing their hand and were indeed concerned about what they had, though in each case they were marginal to strong. Because these individuals were at the WSOP Academy I had the advantage of being able to see it live and ask them what they had and were thinking. It just goes to show we can read the immediate tells, but sometimes the underlying thinking we may not understand because we are witnessing not reality, but rather, what the person is thinking or perceiving. IF they think themselves weak, then that’s what we’ll see.

— 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 and he’ll answer your questions.

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