You’re an expert in non-verbal behavior, but surely during your studies you’ve heard plenty of comments. With the WSOP approving table talk this year, what are some verbal cues (e.g. cracked voice, incessant chatter) you’ve discovered and what do you think they mean? — Matt Cooper, via email
That is a great question and one I hear more and more. Over the years, I’ve found people who lack confidence, people who are weak or marginal, tend to have a few vocal tells worthy of mentioning. When we are stressed, we tend to make more speech errors and our vocal chords get strained so the pitch of our voice goes up.
Ask another player a question and the cough or the need to clear their throat before answering may tell you they’re suddenly weak. Or they answer and the voice cracks or goes up an octave.
If you hear these things, chances are something is bothering the player; the question is what is it? Is it stress because they’re marginal or weak, or are they hiding their strength? That’s where betting patterns come in to help you sort that out.
What is the most common tell you see at the poker tables? — Lisa Patterson, via email.
Three tells are most prominent in poker, though more than 200 have been identified and studied. The most common one is lip compression, which just about everyone does when something is bothering them.
The next one is neck touching when something you see or hear is an issue.
Last, I would say, is ventilating behaviors. Usually pulling the clothing away, lifting up of the hat, running fingers through hair, lifting up of the hair or pulling at buttons in front of the shirt.
Chances are the person is struggling, marginal or weak as these are performed to relieve stress.
— Joe Navarro is a former FBI agent and author of What Every Body is Saying and 200 Poker Tells. Follow him on Twitter at @navarrotells.