Poker Playing: Tips on Player Behaviors

As extensively as forensic scientists study human tics and facial expressions to determine behavior, game aficionados also try to apply similar science to the game in order to predict bluffs and general apprehensiveness. Although psychology experts like Joe Navarro attempt to decipher moves from behavior, Zach Elwood says that the tells of the average person are much different. Learn more about how tips on player behaviors can help you learn how not to react when playing poker.

Major Differences

According to Elwood, people react differently during a card game than they normally do, which renders the typical studies about human behavior invalid during the game. Poker, Elwood says, is a completely unique environment that calls for a different awareness. Although some of the behaviors do overlap between the typical person's mindset and that of a player, the differences are too wide for traditional psychology to be applied very liberally.

Emotional Comparison

A key difference between the game and the interrogation room is that the persons involved have different goals. In an interrogation room, when a person is attempting to get away with something, he or she uses nervousness and fear as an advantage. These emotions are completely unwanted in the game room, where the person needs to appear confident instead of nervous. Human feelings run in the opposite direction in the game room than they do during an interrogation.

Lip Giveaways

The first thing to consider when learning how not to react when playing poker is that lip giveaways do not reveal the same thing that they do in an interrogation room. While lip-biting and pressed lips reveal nervousness in a typical interview, most people who love the game are already aware of these reveals and use them to promote misdirection. In poker, these gestures mean the opposite of what they do during a criminal investigation. Players will engage in these behaviors on purpose in order to bluff well about a good hand, not a poor one.

Nail Biters

Among the best tips on player behaviors, nail biting is another good example of misdirection to consider. Game aficionados are already aware of how this habit appears, so it is only employed when a good hand is being hidden by the person--not when an individual is actually nervous about a bluff. Biting nails is also not an easy habit to engage in during a game, so it is a lesser-used tactic when employed at all.

Self-Soothing

Good fans only engage in self-soothing behaviors, such as rubbing their necks or adjusting their clothing, when they have a good hand to hide. As with any other nervous tics and behaviors, people know how these appear and use them to their advantage. A seasoned player would never rub his forehead or pull his earlobe like a lying criminal is wont to do.

The Difference of Poker

All of these actions can be observed in both the game and in an interrogation room or life in general, but they just do not mean the same thing across the board. Although FBI expert Joe Navarro lists these tells in the opposite manner in his book Read 'Em and Week as tips on player behaviors, and Zach Elwood negates each point. Turn each one around, Elwood argues, and it can then be considered accurate.