by Phill Hellmuth, Jr.
The following is an excerpt from “Phil Hellmuth Presents Read’Em and Reap.” This book features valuable insight from retired FBI special agent Joe Navarro on reading players and using the information learned to maximize your potential for success at the table. Find “Read’Em and Reap” at most major bookstores and at Amazon.com.
Joe Navarro, retired FBI special agent, tells us that perception management is the process by which an individual creates an image of himself that, if believed by others, will benefit him. I try to do this through what I call a “false tell;” a manufactured motion, movement, or speech pattern, or simply the way you push your chips into the pot, that sends a subtle signal to your opponents that you are strong when you are weak, or weak when you are strong. The most opportune time to use a false tell would be during a key pot: a pot worth winning, a pot that you really want to manipulate others into. If you overuse the false tell, it will lead people to see your “tells” in a different light, thus rendering the tactic ineffective in the future.
I once used a false tell at the Taj Mahal Casino’s $7,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship event in Atlantic City in October 2000. During the tournament the following hand developed: with the blinds at $100-$200, three players called the original bet, and from the small blind I opted to call as well with 4-4. With a flop of Q:heart:-4:spade:-2:diamond:, I checked with my nearly unbeatable hand. From there, it went check (big blind), check, check and then Men “the Master” Nguyen bet out $600. Now I quickly decided to use my best false tell as I raised it up $1,200 more to go. I wanted to use my false tell in order to lure Men -or the other players in the pot- into paying me the most chips possible. About an hour earlier I had made a nice-sized bluff, and after I was called, I committed to memory all of the motions and looks that I had made during the bluff. Now, versus Men, I put my chips into the pot the same way, I talked in the same manner, I leaned back in my chair to the same extent and finally I looked right at Men, just as I had earlier, when my bluff had been exposed.
Men took the bait and called my $1,200 raise. The next card was the 6:spade:, for a board of Q:heart:-4:spade:-2:diamond:-6:spade:, and I decided to bet the same percentage of the pot that I had bet during my last bluff. I bet out $2,500 again, with all of the same mannerisms I had affected during my real bluff. Men called the $2,500 and I decided I would bet $4,000 on the end if a seemingly safe card came up.
The 9:heart: that came up on the river looked to me like the safest card in the world, and I followed through with my plan of betting $4,000, with all of my false-tell mannerisms in tact. I was now praying for a call from Men, when I realized he was thinking of raising me! Finally, he merely called my $4,000 bet, and I confidently flipped up my trip fours (three of a kind) and waited for the pot to be pushed to me. After a few seconds Men flipped up his hand, pocket nines – which he had tripped up on the last card- to take the pot
Although I lost this pot on the last card, I had controlled Men’s ply through a series of well-executed false tells. Joe is correct when he says if you’re able to successfully conceal, not reveal, your own tells, and at the same time detect tells in your opponents and use that information effectively, you will be a formidable poker player. What I’m suggesting is when you reach that skill level you might want to add the false tell to your playing repertoire and put one more weapon in your winning arsenal.