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12/03/2007 No. 17
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday March 12, 2007

Judi James, the TV body-language expert, has written a book about poker tells. I'm sure she is a nice lady, but I must warn you to be careful of this tome. I don't deny that poker tells exist; I am a mass of them myself. Throughout the filming of Premier League Poker, I was constantly advised to stop talking during hands because I give too much away. The problem is, if I don't talk at all, I feel guilty about making boring television. So I always risk losing a few extra chips, here and there, for the sake of a light conscience.

Inexperienced opponents will often have very simple tells. Some players, when they hit the flop, cannot resist glancing at their chips - revealing that they intend to make (or at least call) a bet. Some people actually lean forward when they are interested in a hand.

A lot of players act nervous with good cards, while trying to imply physical and verbal confidence when they're bluffing. Sometimes this is not even acting: people can truly feel more nervous with a big hand, because they know it's going to get expensive. Many amateur players will actually shake, visibly tremble with adrenaline, when they're holding a monster.

But "fake tells" are all the rage, so I'd caution against putting too much faith in this stuff. It is always more useful to observe people's betting patterns than their physical mannerisms. Keep watching for how much they bet, with what kind of hand, at which point in the action.

The reason to beware James's book, however, is even simpler. Its title is Poker Face: How to Win Poker at the Table and Online. The phrase should be, of course, "How to Win at Poker". From the title alone, my read on Judi is that she may be a body-language expert, but she's completely unfamiliar with the game.

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