Joe Navarro answers poker tells questions: August 2010



Do you think there are players who are born with the skill of intuition for spotting tells while others aren’t? — BRAD from Sydney, Australia

I think definitely so. I’ve work with guys, for instance Daniel Negreanu, who has an unbelieveable ability to look at things and draw inferences from them that leave me floored and leave most people just knowing that they’re in a different league. Knowing that, however, I know this: We can all improve our ability to observe and pick up on tells. It’s just a matter of being taught. If I taught you, for instance, that when you put your hands on top of your cards the distance between each finger will be dominated by how you feel about your cards, so that when you’re strong your fingers will be spread apart than when you’re weak, having that knowledge (which is accurate) now you know what to look for. Now you can internalize that and use that in your gameplay.

When we’re strong we tend to spread out, our fingers spread out and when we’re weak we tend to withdraw. It’s the same way when you have a cat or a dog, when they feel threatened they tuck in their ears, our brain tucks in the fingers together so they are not spread apart.

— 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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