Of all the books out there on the game of poker, few step into the realm of tells and detecting them at the tables. One of the seminal works on the subject is, of course, Mike Caro's "Book Of Poker Tells" which, to be honest, no one has come close to touching in its depth and analysis of players at the tables. There is a challenger to that crown now in the form of a former FBI special agent.
Former FBI special agent Joe Navarro, a certified expert in counterintelligence with a particular focus on the field of nonverbal communication and behavior analysis, has teamed up with Marvin Karlins and poker professional Phil Hellmuth to present "Read 'Em And Reap", a 200 page book that takes the works of Caro to a whole new level. Joe first got his start in the world of poker when he squared off against poker pro Annie Duke and a few lie detector machines on a Discovery Channel special to see who could detect the most lies from their subjects (surprisingly, both Duke and Navarro tied for the best score, beating the machines!). Since then, Navarro has been one of the featured speakers at Camp Hellmuth (Phil's poker camp) regarding reading your opponents at the table and those lectures have been soaked up by the eager students and burgeoning poker players there (he notes in the book as well that both Hellmuth and T. J. Cloutier were avid note takers during his lecture!). The book is a natural step for Navarro to take and it definitely should be required reading for anyone who wants to maximize their success at the poker tables.
"Read 'Em And Reap" (due out in all bookstores on November 7th and available for pre-order on Amazon.com) presents a very startling concept from the start. Navarro states that EVERYONE has tells, from the greatest professional players to the greenest amateurs, at the poker tables. He emphasizes this through an easy to understand breakdown of the mental makeup of human beings that has been a part of our being since we entered the planet. Navarro stresses that observation of individuals is the key to deriving these tells and then proceeds to break down where to look for these definitive indicators.
Joe's work encompasses focusing on all parts of the body, even that below the table (as, he states, the feet and legs are the most telling part of the body). He breaks down each segment of the body to analyze for tells and also indicates whether they are "high confidence" (good hand) tells or "low confidence" (bad hand) giveaways. There are many great demonstrations of these tells done through photographs in the book and Phil Hellmuth adds in his support for Navarro's work by offering demonstrations of how he has used the former FBI agent's instructions at the tables, with surprising accuracy. Marvin Karlins, the writer who brought all the information together, does an excellent job of translating the wealth of information without a loss of the quality of the instruction provided.
There were several points that I found the book to be invaluable. First off, the book was useful in the fact that I was able to identify things that I do at the tables that, to be honest, were right along the lines of what Navarro was stating. In his description of "flight" tells (one of the areas of the brain where all humans are "hard wired" as to their reactions), I recognized in my own physical displays some of the things he stated. From reading this book I, at the minimum, can attempt to limit those displays that my opponents can pick up at the tables as tells. This alone is worth the price of the book.
Secondly, the facial display tells that he demonstrated are highly accurate. I tested these theories while watching a broadcast of the Professional Poker Tour and, to my surprise, Joe's statements and observations were right on track, even with some of the greatest players in the world. If the information that Navarro gives there can be applied to the professional poker world, then think about how accurate they can be in your next home game!
Finally, any book that you can reread and pick up things you missed is definitely a tool that you can constantly learn from. "Read 'Em And Reap" is just that type of book. Through several perusals of the book and two full readings, I am still pulling useful information that is improving my abilities at the tables in the area of reading my opponents. That makes it invaluable.
With "Read 'Em And Reap", Navarro, Karlins and Hellmuth have brought a tome that is comparable to (if not surpassing) Mike Caro's book. The photographic illustrations, depth of information and support of Hellmuth's actual demonstrations (not to mention my own experiments with the data in book) give the book a tremendous amount of credibility. It is a book that can only improve your abilities at the tables and, as such, increase your bankroll. "Read 'Em And Reap" should be a book that every serious poker player at the minimum reads, if not owns, for the continued education into the minds of your opponents.