Poker tell: The most dangerous face in poker!

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1996) in Card Player magazine.

Rediscovered and added to Poker1 in 2014.

There is danger all around us, my friends. Maniacs. Machinery. Weapons of war. Wild animals that eat us up. So what? Are we going to spend the rest of our lives hiding under the front porch? Are we going to tiptoe around every day, afraid of our shadows? Are we men, or are we sissies?

Wait! Don’t answer yet. Life doesn’t need to be terrifying. Life can be pretty comfortable, once you learn the danger signs. Green means go; red means stop. The skinny dude with the slingshot ain’t gonna scare off the babe holding the bazooka. Stuff like that. Once you learn these basic keys to success, you’ll do fine. Oh, yeah, there’s one more: The woman’s expression in today’s tell ought to scare the hell out of you!

First, let’s set the record straight. That’s my former-wife Phyllis, and when I first published this, I had no idea how she was going to feel about being called “the most dangerous face in poker.” (Fortunately, she liked it.) Maybe I should explain why she’s so dangerous in this carefully posed scene from a video. She’s not on the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted” list, and she doesn’t deal from the bottom of the deck, so what could it be?

You better beware

Let me think. OK, now I remember. She’s looking away. One fundamental concept I explained in Mike Caro’s Book of Tells, back in 1984, was that a player looking away from you is always more dangerous than player looking at you. I’ll show you pictures of exactly what I mean in the future. But, today, we have a player looking away and something much worse!

Look at her eyes! Even though her head is turned away from you, her eyes are straining to see what you’re going to do. She’s following the action, but she’s trying not to make it obvious. This is a classic case of a player trying to act uninterested when keenly interested.

What happens if you bet into this woman. Should you expect to get called? Absolutely not! You should expect to get raised! Memorize that face. You’ll see this tell several times every poker session. Their heads will be turned slightly away from the action, but they’ll be watching the action out of the corners of their eyes.

What does it mean?

Ask yourself why a player would want to turn his head away from the action. Two possibilities: (1) Player has no interest in the pot; (2) Player wants you to think he or she has no interest in the pot. We can eliminate the first possibility because her eyes are following the action.

Whenever you see a player acting similarly to today’s illustration, don’t bet. Unless you have a super-strong hand, check and pass. Save your money. I repeat : You’re looking at the most dangerous face in poker. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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