Your body oozes information

February 22, 2012, Chris  

If there’s anything I hope you’ve learned from this column, it’s our bodies always transmit information. Of course, that includes our torso and how we sit. Our brain is constantly assessing the world around us, and if you’re not careful, it will react to your hole cards and the community cards in ways you may not want to intend.
Sitting still during a long session is Mission: Impossible. For an hour, sure, it’s doable. However, once you’re a couple of levels deep into the second day, your body gets restless and needs pacifying through stretching, leaning, adjusting, etc.

We comfort ourselves by moving into different positions. We slouch, sit up straight and lean back into our chairs, but honestly, are you really thinking about how you sit? Consciously, probably not, but your brain, especially your limbic brain, never takes a break.

Your subconscious mind determines how engaged you’ll be in a situation. It analyzes and transmits how far away you will sit from the other people around you, without you doing the calculus. It will assess any violations of your space and will call you to action, and alerting you to adjust one way or another. For example, if the person next to you places his smartphone too close to your “space,” your subconscious will tell you to move slightly away, stare at him or ask him to move over. In any case, you will react. If you don’t believe me, just try it. Move your drink over into someone else’s space and watch what happens to their torso.

When someone receives good news, their excitement is reflected in their posture, by a matter of degrees or inches. Bad news makes shoulders sink and posture shrink. Keep an eye out for players who look at cards and sit up quickly. At the same time, if opponents look at cards and their posture falls, don’t expect them to play the hand. Posture can dictate the engagement at any point of a hand, so instead of watching the cards come out on the flop, turn and river, look at opponents. No matter when you look at the center of the table, the card will be the same. While you’re playing you should be aware you’ll be constantly adjusting in ways you may not realize. If you find you’re giving information away with your posture, get up and walk around the poker room. That distraction may realign what others perceive. Be aware, that over time you will send various messages with your posture, sitting low or sitting high. Manage this nonverbal carefully and your bankroll will be safer than ever before.

— Joe Navarro is a former FBI agent specializing in human behavior. He is the author of the international bestseller What Every Body is Saying and 200 Poker Tells. Follow him on Twitter at @navarrotells. Additional information available at