When it comes to body language, it’s never
an exact art.
The things I’m going to suggest, they’re all
But that said there are some certain things
that as a poker player I’ll look for.
And the most important thing is, first of
all, to get a baseline of somebody.
It’s impossible to tell whether the behavior
someone is showing is meaningful or not if
you don’t know how they naturally behave.
So the first thing I’ll do when I sit down
at the table is look at what my opponents
are doing when they’re not in a hand: are
they naturally quite gregarious, are they
confident when they interact with the waitress,
or are they naturally quite quiet and shy?
How do they sit?
Are they naturally closed off?
Are they very languishing”—that kind of
And once I’ve got an idea of their baseline
outside of a hand then I look to see how they
deviate from that when they’re actually in
the middle of playing or in a tense situation.
In general what you want to look for in both
poker—but also when you’re trying to figure
out if someone is lying—is their comfort
level, if they seem authentic.
As a rule of thumb, humans are actually quite
good at picking up authenticity or if someone
is being disingenuous.
So that’s the thing to look out for, and there
are some like classic behaviors that I’ve
noticed people do at the table where—if
you see them suddenly making a point of making
themselves bigger, where they’re naturally
sitting like this and now they’re sort of
puffing up, that’s more often than not a false
confidence that they’re trying to show.
Most people do try to stay very constant.
So you really do notice a behavior, particularly
against someone who seems to play quite regularly,
the chances are that they’re aware of their
behavior, so they’re probably trying to mislead
But another rule of thumb that I like to follow
is: the first thing you learn as a kid, usually,
when you lie is “liars won’t look you in
the eye,” so what do kids do to overcompensate?
They’ll look you in the eye.
And similarly people are very aware of their
faces, this part of their body, if they’re
trying to be dishonest, but what they’re not
thinking about is the rest of their body.
So the lower down on the body that you’re
looking at, the more reliable the information
So if you think about when you’re excited
about something, generally speaking you’ll
bounce around and you can’t keep still, and
we call it “happy feet” in poker.
The feet are often the most reliable thing
to look at on your opponent because they might
be completely stoic in their face but their
feet are bouncing around—it’s usually a
sign that they have a really strong hand.
But similarly if they’re sort of smiling and
chatty but their feet all of a sudden tuck
themselves around the table or around the
chair legs, something’s up there.
So as a rule of thumb, look for the rest of
someone else’s body more than their face if
you’re trying to figure out if they’re telling
you the truth or not.