Reviewing the top 10 poker tells

August 31, 2015, Joe Navarro  

It’s good to occasionally review tells that are most accurate. This list is based on observation, research and reports I’ve received from players the past seven years.

Quite a few have made major decisions based on these tells and in some cases they made money or avoided losing their bankroll. As you review these, keep in mind what I said in Read ’Em and Reap: The tells we see at the table are merely perceptions, not reality, of how a player feels about his cards and that of others (troubled, marginal, weak, overwhelmed).

A player with a pair may think he’s hit the jackpot because he’s inexperienced.

We’ll see the same behaviors of excitement from that player as someone with a genuinely strong hand.

Review these tells and maybe even carry them with you because these have been used and tested.

1. NOSE WRINKLE: This is usually seen when hole cards are first observed or on the flop. Players dislike their cards or situation and likely will fold. The nose wrinkles as if smelling rotten eggs.

2. EYE-BLOCKING: Players cover eyes with fingers or hold eyes closed upon seeing a flop are marginal or weak. It’s often mistaken for eye-rubbing but this is a blocking behavior.

3. LIP COMPRESSION: It’s a behavior we do when something bothers us. The worse the situation the more we do it. The more the corners of the mouth point downward the greater the stress.

4. SITTING STRAIGHT: Sudden changes in posture, especially sitting up, often signal a strong hand.

5. SINKING FEELING: Players who gradually sink in their seat during a hand are marginal or weak.

6. RUBBING HANDS ON THIGHS: This is a player-specific tell. It’s a pacifying behavior to calm nerves.

For some, it’s from bluffing while it soothes others as they sit on a monster hand.

7. CARD SHUTTLE: A player who holds hole cards between his thumb and middle finger then begins to move the cards side to side has a better than 95 percent chance he’ll fold.

8. NECK-TOUCHING: The touching or covering of the throat area usually signals concern or lack of confidence. The player likely is marginal or weak.

9. STEEPLING: Upon seeing the flop, a player sits with his hands in the steeple position (fingertips together, palms far apart). We do this when we’re confident and strong.

10. HAPPY FEET: Players will bounce their feet or legs upon realizing they have the best hand. The shaking will vibrate the shirt of the player, which can be seen across the table.

— Joe Navarro is a former FBI Special Agent and is the author of What Every BODY is Saying and 200 Poker Tells. He writes about poker tells exclusively for Ante Up.