Reader follows poker tells advice, cashes in

April 03, 2014, Joe Navarro  

Every once in a while a reader takes the time to let me know of their success using information from my articles, which is what Andy Castro, a longtime reader, did. Andy wrote, “I was playing $1-$2 no-limit hold’em for about two hours and had $350. There are quite a few calling stations at the table so it was difficult to raise preflop and not get several callers.

In this hand, I was on the big blind with {q-Spades}{10-Hearts}. Under the gun, two middle-position players, the button and the small blind called and I checked. The flop came {10-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{2-Hearts}. I decided to go for a check-raise as I was confident the aggressive under-the-gun player would try to steal. Sure enough, he bet $6 into the $11 pot.

A middle-position player and the button called. The small blind folded and I raised to $24. The only caller was the middle-position player, one of the calling stations I had mentioned. He had chased several draws to the river, so a flush draw or straight draw is a big possibility here.

The turn was the {6-Diamonds}, which completes a straight. I still felt like I needed to bet, so I made it $45 into the $73 pot. He called. His call made me feel good because I think he would’ve raised if he had made the straight.
The river was the {6-Hearts}. I thought I was still ahead here but didn’t feel confident enough to bet, but I planned to call a reasonable bet, so I checked. He immediately pushed all-in. It was $189. This was more than the pot.

It was what this guy did after he pushed his chips forward that made me call. He immediately pushed away from the table and crossed his arms and leaned back. I have learned from you that this is an effort to distance himself from his hand because he’s not happy with it. The crossing of his arms also tells me he’s guarded. He was in Seat 1 and I was in Seat 7; it almost looked like he was hiding behind the dealer, that’s how far he pushed away from the table. I called and he said, ‘Ace high,’ for the nut-flush draw. I showed my cards and took the pot. I believe that was the biggest pot I’ve taken down in my short poker career. Thank you, Joe.”

Andy took everything into consideration, as he should. That sudden behavior, the pushing away from the table and the crossing of the arms, is not a sign of confidence; it’s a distancing behavior. That arm cross serves as a barrier and comfort display for a reason: Even the opponent had his doubts; he demonstrated it and you read it just right. Congrats, and well done.

— 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.