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19/05/2008 No. 70
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday May 19, 2008

Last week's newspapers carried a story about the "voice risk analysis system". It's a lie detector, based on picking up stress in the voice, which businesses could use to test whether somebody is lying when they phone in sick on a hot day.

Never mind getting fired - what about poker? No doubt the kids will soon be carrying miniature voice risk analysis gadgets, to monitor bluffing at the table.

In the meantime, let's run through the traditional tells that people associate with bluffing or lying. The most famous is that bluffers touch their faces, or cover their mouths. Connected with that is the idea that the bluffer's whole body seems to shrink: limbs and gestures are focussed inwards, not confidently outwards. All physical movements, some say, become stiffer in the realm of untruth.

It is said that people look straight at you when they're bluffing, and look away with a big hand. The voice is supposed to change in pitch when lying - which is why the phone detector would theoretically work. Making a joke or a quip is said to be the sign of a nervous bluffer; someone with the best hand should not want to distract you from calling.

You may notice I have hedged all these statements with phrases such as "it is said" or "supposed to mean". That's because I'm a sceptic about physical tells, and would always encourage you to look at your opponents' betting patterns rather than their mannerisms. But it is useful to know which gestures people generally believe to indicate a bluff, so that you can avoid accidentally doing them when bluffing yourself.

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