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Sports & Gaming

Spotting Tells, Part 2

Daniel Negreanu

Lesson time 9:19 min

Daniel delves deeper into his analysis of body language and demonstrates how craftier opponents may try to trick you with the notorious “reverse tell.”

Daniel Negreanu
Teaches Poker
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With few exceptions, most players who are willing to do some table talk during a hand are going to do so when they're comfortable and when they're feeling strong. That's not always the case. Some people have, as I said, mastered the art of chit chat while they're bluffing, and they feel comfortable doing so. And some people actually just end up feeling more comfortable when they talk a lot. But for most players, if you see something like this, we call it the speech. If you see the speech before the all in-- like something like this, for example-- well, I got to get home to dinner anyway. It's late. I'm all in. Or something to the effect of, ah, I just don't feel like playing anymore. Let's go all in. Or, well, this hand is as good as any. I might as well go all in. All three of those things are the speech, if you will. And the speech is usually downplaying the strength of the hand by deflecting and saying, well, I've got to do dinner, so that's the reason I'm going all in. Or I'm not really that strong, but might as well. So most often when people are willing to say something like this or talk, you should be aware of that speech. Now, again, this is something that a lot of players are going to counter, and they'll do the speech and reverse it on you. But more often than not, if you see a random-- especially an amateur player-- pull the speech all in play, you better get away from your hand. One of other points in a poker hand where you're going to be giving away information is when you choose to actually make a bet. And there's a lot of ways that you'll see players do that. Sometimes you'll see a player take chips, and they'll just splash them in the pot. That same player, other times, may decide to just gently put them in this way. And often, if you pay attention to this sort of thing, you'll develop patterns, or you'll see patterns in terms of which one is stronger and which one is weaker. Now, one of the things I look for occasionally is when someone is splashing their chips, I'm watching the elbow. And when an elbow extends all the way and stretches, that's essentially-- subconscious tells you to say, listen, get away. I'm very strong. Run. Whereas that same player, if they-- instead of fully extending the elbow, they put the chips down this way and don't extend the elbow, that's them being more inviting. So why would they be more inviting? Because they want you to call. Why would they be more aggressive with their arm? Because they want you out. So that tells you that's weaker than this. There's also things that you probably don't even realize that you do occasionally when you're betting. So say, for example, I'm in a hand against you right there. So I'm going to bet these four chips. And instead of betting them towards you, I bet them over here. What would that signify to you? Now, what that means, typically, is that's a weaker hand. They don't even have the guts, essentially, to look you in the face and make the bet. So o...

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Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This was my first MasterClass and it was fantastic. I am not a poker player whatsoever, but found the concepts broadly applicable and interesting. Daniel was a great teacher!

Wish it was more clear that it was tournament style based poker.

I haven't played Hold'em in several years and the game has evolved significantly since I last played. Just the idea of ranges will help me get back in the game. Overall, excellent advice on just about every aspect of the game. Can't wait to get out and practice. Thanks.

Very entertaining even though I am not a poker player. I was able to learn how to read people and situations from the advice Daniel gave.


A fellow student

I'm the exact opposite for breathing. I tend to go full freeze on a weak/bad hand and am attempting a bluff.

Austin K.

If you are an amateur player, how can you take advantage of these perceived tells and exploit people trying to read you?

Larry S.

I was surprised to hear Daniel suggest that heavy breathing on a river bet generally indicates a bluff. In virtually everything else I've seen and read, and in during my many years of playing, heaving breathing generally indicates a very strong hand. Are there some subtleties I'm missing here? Any thoughts?

Hung T.

This is not always how poker works, but it's the reason why the game is not merely luck and that's why i love the game.

Rusty V.

Very good. I'm always amazed that many players will practically tell me what they have if I just listen carefully.


I have a question. Was playing tournament this AM, 37 players, down to 16. Blinds are 2k/4K. I have 50K in chips, am in BB. UTG with same size stack as I have limps in, middle guy goes all in for 15.5K. I have A-Q unsuited, want to call for 11.5K, when I see UTG fidgeting with chips getting ready to push all in. I had moved to the table when blinds were 1K/2K and hadn't seen a lot of hands. I didn't want to get pushed to a 3-way all in. UTG called after I folded. Did I make the right decision?

Eric C.

Caro's Book of Poker Tells The glancing at the chips in previous lesson, this arm extension, etc. ... all in the book.


Very complex subject and I do not doubt Daniel is very gifted at correlating data and distinguishing tells and reverse tells and making the distinction between the various configurations (e.g., strong as weak, weak as strong, strong as strong, weak as weak,) but spotting a physical change in behavior and knowing what it means with reliability is very difficult to demonstrate in such a cursory way. Examples showing real players in action would be much more helpful. Daniel acting out the stuff was a beginning but not quite demonstrative enough, IMO.

Joe K.

Really enjoyed hearing how you took something people perceived as a weakness of yours and exploited it into a strength. The more I watch and study and try to work on my game the more I realize I have so much to work on. I'm supplementing this with a book on poker math that I think will help too. I am enjoying this class. Best $90 I've spent so far on my poker education!!