You are currently browsing the Poker category.

How to Spot a Liar at the Poker Table (and Anywhere Else!)

Warwick Dunnett

Truth be told, liars are everywhere. But nowhere are they more prevalent than at the poker table. You can master the game and learn all the tips and tricks you want, but being able to spot a bluff is one of the greatest skills of a good poker player. In fact, it’s a skill that can translate to other areas of your life as well.

In poker, the ability to read an opponent at the table is a huge advantage. It’s called a “tell” – a subtle but detectable physical reaction or change in behavior or demeanor that gives (or tells) the other players information about your hand.

Many of the best “tells” are apparent in the way people bet, but learning the most common physical tells can also give you a lot of valuable information. To do so, it is very important to constantly watch the players you’re at the table with, as well as monitor your own behavior to make sure you’re not giving anything away.

When people are bluffing, in poker and in most other situations, unless they’re sociopaths, they feel some level of discomfort. It’s your job to sense that discomfort. Physically, there are many ways for that to manifest and if you’re vigilant and observant, you can spot many signs.

The first place to look for signs of discomfort is a person’s face. Start at the forehead and scan down, looking for clues which are new and contrary to their normal behavior.

Facial Clues

1. Forehead furrowed or sweaty

2. Pupil dilation

3. Eyes closed or looking up and to the left or right

4. Rapid eye movement

5. Nostril flare

6. Tight lips

7. Smile

8. Wetting lips, swallowing or gulping

Next, take a look at the person’s hands and body. There are several clues to be found there.

Hand Clues

1) Hands covering or touching the face

2) Rubbing eyes

3) Steepling of fingers

4) Touching hair

5) Tugging at clothes

Body Clues

1) Crossed arms

2) Legs crossed when seated

3) Legs not planted firmly on the ground when sitting

4) Holding an object or gripping an ankle, knee or skin of a crossed leg when seated

Behavior changes can also be a tip-off that someone is lying. The first thing to do is listen.

Voice/Speech Clues

1) Someone who is usually talkative or suddenly quiet

2) Change in speech patterns i.e. speaking more softly or faster than usual

3) Pitch is higher than normal

3) Speaking more forcefully

4) Crackling

5) Verbal or non-verbal sighs

In general, the key to spotting a liar is being observant and noticing changes in their behavior or body language. In poker it involves watching the players even when you’re not involved in the hand. While these are general clues, every situation is unique because everyone is different.

There are also a couple of other things to consider. Some more experienced players will try to fake you out and misguide you by purposely displaying unusual behavior. Luckily, actors are often easy to spot. Then there’s another group of people who exhibit all the signs of discomfort but it’s not because they’re lying, it’s because they’ve got a great hand!

The Poker Face

While some people believe you need to have a poker face to be good at the game that really isn’t the case. You can make all the strange faces you want, as long as you’re consistent in doing so.

A lot of other very useful information comes from the hints a person gives you that have nothing to do with the game, but more about their general personality, job and comments they make at the table. Use all your senses and follow your gut. When everything else is equal, listen to that voice inside your own head, it’s usually right.

Warwick Dunnett is a semi-professional poker player and author of ‘Poker Wizards’. Get free poker tips, audio downloads and insights from the world’s top players at

Poker Wizards Home

Posted 2 weeks ago at 4:55 pm.

1 comment

Should you preserve your chips early in a tournament or try to build your stack from the ‘get-go’?

Warwick Dunnett

(by Warwick Dunnett, Author of ‘Poker Wizards’)

There is a common belief by many tournament players today that you are better off taking lots of chances in the first few rounds of a tournament to try and build your stack early and gather chips from the worse players because many of them won’t be around later on.

During one of our interviews for his chapter in ‘Poker Wizards’, Daniel Negreanu told me…..

”I would rather get those chips from the bad players early in the tournament than have to take them from somebody like Phil Ivey later on.”

In my opinion, that strategy does make sense when you have a large edge over your opponents like Daniel does. However, for the average tournament player, participating in a lot of hands early on in a tournament with marginal cards can often burn up many of their chips. Combine a few draws that don’t work out with an ill-timed bluff or two, or a couple of bad calls and they can quickly find themselves achieving the opposite goal…..being low on chips, just about the time that the antes start to kick in; thus finding yourself in a position where your options suddenly become very limited.

T.J. Cloutier has a conservative view on the subject which I thought was interesting. He is a big believer in preserving chips early in a tournament so that you can utilize those chips later on when you are a much bigger favorite in a hand and have a chance of tripling or doubling up. This is what T.J Cloutier said during our interview when we were talking about the difference between the average players and the winners:

“One of the reasons that the really good players are so successful is that they recognize situations exceptionally well and always get more money out of the good situations than an average player will, but they also save more chips when they are behind in a hand.

A typical example would be if you were playing in a Limit Hold’em tournament and there was a three card flush on the board. A good player, up against a person who was firing at the pot, might make a bet knowing that the other player is going to call if he is on a draw. But he will also be good enough to know that if his opponent already hit his flush and makes a re-raises, he will be able to get away from the hand.

A lot of average players will convince themselves that they have to call. They have a hand but even though they think they are probably beat, they still call because of all the money that is in the pot. I think that’s ridiculous. All the money that you save in those types of plays is money that you will have to double or triple up latter on.”

Early in a tournament, that money is worth a lot to you because whenever you save by not losing chips, you’re going to have that money for when you have a good hand and may be able to double up later in the tournament. A lot of people don’t realize how precious that money is early on! They think they have to get all their chips early in the tournament. I don’t play that way. If I have more chips at every break, I am happy as hell. I like to just keep cruising along when people are getting knocked out and get my chips later on when it counts.”

T.J.’s philosophy has clearly served him well in the past and it is the one that I prefer when I play the odd tournament because it suits my character to make ‘the money’ more often. On the other hand I do recognize the need to arrive at the final table with a lot of chips and realize that you won’t do that unless you are involved in more than a few confrontations. Never the less, I find it really tough both mentally and financially to accept extremely long draw down periods that come with the need to play aggressively and succeed in today’s large fields. I guess that’s why, over the last few years, I have gravitated toward cash games as my primary source of ‘poker income.’ They are just far more reliable.

Warwick Dunnett

Posted 1 month, 3 weeks ago at 2:54 pm.

Add a comment