Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 9 “Fold Equity” Comments

dreamstime_5918359white-spaceThis week’s episode involved gambling.

We get asked all the time about the possibility of training poker players, and I think that learning to read micro and subtle expressions of emotion, and other nonverbal behaviors, would be a great skill to add to any poker player’s skill set.

That having been said, however, I also firmly believe that just learning the skills in and of themselves will not necessarily make one a better player or guarantee winnings. Like any professional context, whether or not a person will be effective in using the skills in reading people is dependent on HOW they use them.

I am in no way an expert (or even a novice!) at playing poker, but from what I can tell from the game, it seems that the ability to read micro or subtle emotional expressions needs to be coupled with an intimate knowledge of the game, the probabilities, and understanding the nature of the stories told by players nonverbally (and sometimes verbally) as they check, call, raise or fold.

Moreover, the context is entirely different than others in which we typically try to detect lies. In our usual context – such as law enforcement related interview – the overall context in one in which the truth is condoned, lying is bad, and there are stakes involved if a person is caught lying. In the poker context, the overall context is one in which lying is condoned and expected, lying is good, and the conditions for the stakes are blurry. Thus, the entire rules of the context are different than usual, and thus the skills need to be used in a theory that is entirely different.

Given these facts, poker players can certainly learn our stuff, but should figure out the best way to use those skills in their context.

There is no reason to believe that what we have learned about tells in the science to date can say much about the tells that occur in poker. Of course, that’s an empirical question, and one that we could certainly find out about if we actually did the studies on poker.

6 responses to “Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 9 “Fold Equity” Comments”

  1. Hello. I was reading someone elses blog and saw you on their blogroll. Would you be interested in exchanging blog roll links? If so, feel free to email me.


  2. Another element with playing poker, you have to unemotionally attached to your money to be successful. If you care that you will lose your money and your emotions rear up, they have a high likelihood of affecting your ability to read people and play the game objectively.

  3. BenS says:

    I was confused by this bit:

    That looks like AU17. How is 17 related to Anger?

  4. Hi Ben,

    AU 17 is not related to anger, but to the control of anger. The prototypical expression of anger would NOT, I think, include AU 17.


  5. Kyle says:

    I’ve played semi to full on professional poker since 2001, mostly online which I’ve amassed over millions of hands, read countless articles, books and forum posts as well as played thousands of hands live.

    Tells are both underrated and overrated. To the layman they think just because you spot a tell you’ll make a fortune. Unfortunately just because you spot a tell doesn’t mean you’ll be in the positions to exploit it. The cards still have to fall your way, his hand may be weak but still stronger than you and you know he’s not folding. He may “think” he’s strong but he’s really not because he didn’t assess the hand right. i.e. you may have him beat but he’s so dense he doesn’t realize he’s beat so he “wants a call”.

    Daniel Negreanu, considered one of the world’s finest players, even wrote an article way back titled “tells are overrated” were he discussed that betting patterns are far more important (they are).

    Caro wrote a book of tells and before poker became so popular these tells made players a lot of money and to this day I still spot them at the table. These are the same type of tells coming from your “honest reptilian brain” according to Joe Navarro. Navarro wrote a general body language book in addition to a poker tell book even though he doesn’t play. Most tells are based on “freeze-flight-fight”. If you’re bluffing you want to not make any sudden movements that triggers a call. If you get dealt a big hand your heart rate sky rockets because it’s preparing to go to battle. A lot of amateurs confuse this for nervousness and bluffing.

    I recently sat down at a table for the first time since I’ve read ekmans books, took the humintell subX training and follow Eyes’s blogs. I say, anecdotally, it raised the importance of tells from say 10% to 20%. I spotted more but I still was never really in a position to exploit them. I guess in theory it helped me give the players in a hand an archetype. Poker is all about archetypes. Just like eyes “profiles” people to compare them to other people like them, this is how I “know” how players play based on such few hands…I even know how a player plays and what holes I can exploit just by the way they discuss a hand. i.e. if he makes “this type” of mistake he’ll also make “this type” just like other people that plays the way he does.

    Even though Negreanu “thinks” he doesn’t rely on tells that much when he can’t make sense of a hand he pulls a “cal lightman” and point blankly asks the opponent what he should do. When I sat down last I saw this and I definitely caught a micro-expression of joy/happiness. A guy was asked “do you want me to call” then the microexpression flashed. The opponent didn’t see it and called. The guy turned over a monster hand and won the pot.

    I’ll take it even further. Given the way both guys played the hand it was still MATHEMATICALLY correct to call! So that microexpression really didn’t matter to the losing player. In a 8 hour session that was THE ONLY microexpression I caught and like I said, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t even in the hand.

    Eye’s mention of “attachment to the money” has a little more variables than that. Sometimes you feel like god and even though you are very attached to the money you’re ego is so inflated you feel little to no emotions at all (sometimes it’s justified). Other times you can be playing PLAY money or welllll below your limit and you can still feel nervous. After a winning a 4 digit poker session I went to play a bar game of poker and since I wanted to bust the guy playing (he’s a dick) I got nervous….over play money….at a bar….when nothing but ego was at stake.

  6. D. Negreanu is actually my favorite poker player. I simply love how he can revealing the other gamers cards 🙂 It is so funny to observe the faces of his opponents, when he tells them their precise hand.

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