Book Review: Reading Poker Tells

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Nov 26, 2012 Posted in Reviews | No Comments »

My poker library became slightly larger recently when I received a copy of Reading Poker Tells, by Zachary Elwood. Elwood is relatively unknown commodity in the poker world, but after reading through his contribution to the ever-growing library of poker books one thing is for certain; the man knows what he speaks of when it comes to tells at the poker tables.

Elwood is semi-professional poker player, who maintains a website, where you can find even more information on poker and specifically tells, including videos of various hands and tells. You can read our interview with Zachary Elwood HERE:

In general, poker tells is a very difficult topic to cover, since unlike poker strategies which are in constant motion and constantly evolving, most of the original writing on the subject of tells is still relevant in today’s poker world, and most of the newer information comes more from body language and behavioral science research, not from the poker world.

When it comes to tells, Caro’s Book of Poker Tells is considered by most people to be the “bible” on the subject, and while there have been newer entries to the category, with everyone from psychologists to FBI interrogators offering up their expertise on the subject of body language and tells in poker, most of the poker tells books are based on Caro’s work. As someone who has read five poker tells books, as well as at least a half-dozen body language books I wasn’t sure what new information Zachary Elwood could bring to the topic.

Fortunately the author delivered, offering an updated version of Mike Caro’s seminal work on the subject, and at the same time eliminating the general body language tells that have been popping in more recent books on the subject, as non-poker players like Joe Navarro try to tackle the subject. It would be more than reasonable to characterize Reading Poker Tells as a revised version of Caro’s Book of Poker Tells, updated for poker in 2012.

While the tells and body language cues covered in Reading Poker Tells will be familiar to anyone who has read a previous book on poker tells Elwood brings a new focus to the subject, Corollary. Elwood does an excellent job of drilling down the idea that the same mannerism could have a completely opposite meaning depending on the player exhibiting the tell. Furthermore, a specific quirk may mean one thing for one player, and quite another for someone else.

Going a step further, Elwood breaks poker tells down into three distinct groups, which is the best cataloguing system for tells I have seen to date. Instead of a header on “staring” the author looks at this single action in multiple situations: Waiting for Action, During Action, and Post Bet Tells. As Elwood explains, a player staring at you while it is your turn to act is a completely different animal than a player staring at you while it is their turn to act!

Additionally, there were a few points where Elwood disagreed with commonly held beliefs regarding tells, and as a poker player I would agree wholeheartedly with his assessment.

Overall the book was fairly well-written (Elwood is obviously not a trained writer, but the few grammatical errors do not take away from the text) and very informative. Anyone who is looking to improve their live poker game would do well to read this book.

The book is available in several formats, paperback, Kindle, and as an EBook:

Buy Reading Poker Tells in Paperback

Buy Reading Poker Tells in Kindle

Buy Reading Poker Tells in EBook

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