Lessons From the FBI
Let me tell you about the time I met an FBI
interrogator named Joe Navarro. Why? Because it was a turning point in my No
Limit Hold’em game.
Last March, I was asked to appear on a show called More Than Human on the
Discovery Channel. The premise for the episode was to pit human lie detectors
against machine lie detectors. They found three people whose living depended on
detecting lies; a psychic named Dr. Turri, an FBI interrogator (Joe Navarro) and
a poker player (me). The idea was to have all three of us watch the host answer
25 questions. Some answers would be lies and some would be truths. A
comparison was made between how accurately we detected the true answers versus
the false answers, against the success of three lie detecting machines;
a polygraph machine, a machine that detects changes in the voice and a machine
that detects pupil dilation.
During the two day taping, I had the pleasure of chatting with Joe and it was
extremely enlightening. As a poker player, it is crucial that I be able to
accurately detect lies – after all, bluffing is essentially another way of
lying. I have learned that there are signs that a person who is bluffing gives.
Their face (rapid blinking, pursing of the lips etc.) as well as their body
movements (sitting with an aggressive posture, banging their chips in the pot)
are all possible signs of a bluffer. I thought I knew how to recognize these
physical reactions as symptoms of lying, but Mr. Navarro showed me what a neophyte I was in this
FBI interrogators spend their lives questioning suspects. They can spend hours
interviewing one person, asking them the same questions over and over again.
They can gauge the differences in the way the suspect is acting when they are
answering innocuous questions versus highly charged questions. And because these
reactions are the cornerstone of the interrogation there is a lot written in FBI
journals about what kinds of signs to look for.
Joe Navarro was kind enough to share some the articles he has written for these
journals with me. On that day, as I sat and read his articles, my poker game
took a jump to the next level.
As I read his articles I started to be able to put names to some of the things I
instinctively knew—names like hooding—an extended blink that suspects often
display right before they are about tell a lie. I learned that when women are
uncomfortable they tend to put their hand to the front of their neck and when
men are uncomfortable they put their hands to their chins. Liars tend to grimace
right before they tell a lie—they show a slight smile right before they begin to
speak. And I learned that people who lie show self-soothing behaviors such as
stroking their fingers.
I have since told anyone who asks me for advice that they should find some FBI
journals and read articles about interrogation. FBI interrogators need to detect
the same thing that poker players do—they need to know with certainty when a
suspect is lying and when they are telling the truth. Poker players need to know
when an opponent is bluffing and when they have a hand. We essentially have the
So how did the humans do in the lie detection test? Well not surprisingly, the
psychic performed at less than 50% accuracy. But Joe Navarro and I tied—we both
were accurate on 18 of the 25 answers the host gave. And we both beat all but
one of the machines.
The clarity that I gained on bluffing that day was essential to my improvement
in reading other players. So go find some FBI journals to read and I promise you
that your game will skyrocket. So what's the moral of the story? You need to truly digest
what interrogators have to say.
(Originally published on 30 May 2005 at "http://www.annieduke.com/articles.php")
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