Five poker tells you never thought about



One of the questions I’m often asked is of all the tells you wrote about in 200 Poker Tells, which ones were the biggest surprise to most readers or least known? That’s a fair question, but it’s tough to answer because it depends on those things that are familiar to a particular poker player. If you’ve readMike Caro’s bookyou’re familiar with the 50 or so tells he researched.

Perhaps you’ve read Annie Duke’s work and so you know the tells she writes about. Because I took a holistic approach writing about the tells that could be used in poker to discern if a player is strong, marginal or weak, many of these may be unknown. In Read ’em and Reap, I wrote about 80 or so tells that I thought would be useful. This new book takes it a lot further, so to mention just five will be tough but here they are.

ONE: When players touch their nose while playing, they may do so to relieve a little tension or because their nose is dry (this happens a lot in Vegas where it’s dry and because of air conditioning). However when a player sneaks a touch of the nose and does so in a manner so as to not be noticed, what he’s doing is suppressing a lot of stress and most likely is weak or marginal.

TWO: Players who stick their finger into the side of their check pushing in deeply are relieving stress and usually have marginal holdings, but most likely they’re extremely weak. This is one of those behaviors I use to see when interviewing suspects that had guilty knowledge and wanted to release the stress of the interview.

THREE: Sudden eyelid flutter, especially postflop is usually indicative of struggling with something, weakness or being marginal. Strong players rarely flutter their eyelids because this is behavior associated with discomfort, lack of understanding, being upset or flummoxed, not being confident.

FOUR: After a player goes all-in, his hands return to the edge of the table palms up (the rogatory position). In almost all instances where I’ve seen this, the player was bluffing. “Palms up” is not a confidence display but rather what we do when we hope others believe us.

FIVE: After a player goes all-in or even as he moves the chips to the center of the table he tucks his chin in (close to the neck) and keeps it there. This behavior is usually performed when players are weak or marginal. It shows lack of confidence and in life we usually do this when we fret something or are fearful.

So there you have it, five behaviors you may never have thought about related to poker. These are seen all of the time at the poker table and yet most people don’t know what the behaviors mean. So if you’re interested in learning more secret poker tells, get to work, there are plenty of books out there to help you play your best.

—Joe Navarro is a retired FBI agent and world-renowned expert on body language. His books, such as What Every Body is Saying and 200 Poker Tells, are available on Amazon. Email Joe at and he’ll answer your questions.

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine