LIAR, LIAR –  How to recognize a bluffer at the poker table (or in the Board room)

By Rege Behe

Mark Twain once said, “It is sound judgment to put on a bold face and play your hand for a hundred times what it is worth; forty-nine times out of fifty nobody dares to call it, and you roll in the chips.”

Twain was referring to bluffing, an essential tool employed by poker players to gain an advantage over opponents. Knowing how and when to bluff can be the difference between a winning or losing session of poker.

Knowing when a player is bluffing, (not only at the poker table), but during business meetings, salary negotiations, or in any other situation, can provide a huge edge. Poker players often refer to tells, or changes in a person behavior or demeanor – that indicates a bluff.

But how do you learn to recognize a bluff or tell?

Michelle Dresbold, one of the country’s top handwriting analysts, says via patience, awareness and close observation, it’s possible to learn the truth about a person at a poker table, in a board room, or even on a first date.

Dresbold, the author of Sex, Lies, and Handwriting: A Top Expert Reveals the Hidden Secrets in Your Handwriting, (Simon & Schuster) is a graduate of the US Secret Service’s Advanced Document Examination training program. She has testified in court cases as an expert witness; assisted the Pittsburgh police department in solving crimes; appeared on the CBS Morning Show, The Today Show, and The O’Reilly Factor; and has been profiled in numerous publications.

Like handwriting, Dresbold insists body language reveals a lot about a person’s intentions and character.

Dresbold, who has coached poker players, says the most important quality needed to discern bluffs is an awareness of differences in behavior or movement.

“Every person has their telltale signs,” she says. “If you watch them long enough, you can observe the difference between when they’re telling the truth and lying, or bluffing. Was their head down? Did they move a little further away from the table? Do they hold their cards differently? Those are little signs that you watch for. And how Person One does it may not be exactly how Person Two does it. Each person has their own pattern.”

Dresbold says it’s important to establish a base for each player. Ask their names or where they are from to establish how they truthfully answer questions. Then watch for deviations from this base, however slight: indirect eye contact, looking away from the table, increases or decreases in the volume of their voice.

There are common traits that indicate a person isn’t being honest. Here are a few mannerisms to look for:

  • A lack of hand gestures. If a person uses their hands when they talk, look for the hands to be still when bluffing. “When you lie, you tighten up, so the hands get tighter,” Dresbold say. “They may even go a little into a fist.”
  • When someone is lying their feet usually move and toes wiggle. “It might be hard to get a person to take off their shoes to see this,” Dresbold says.
  • People often refrain from using contractions when lying. If someone says “I did not do it” instead of “I didn’t do it,” they are more likely to be lying.
  • When someone starts to blink more, or blink rapidly, it’s an indication of increased stress that may be caused by lying.
  • Watch for speech patterns. A player who constantly talks will become quieter when bluffing. A quiet person may talk more. If a person speaks in short sentences and suddenly starts using longer sentences, it’s a good indication of a bluff.
  • Look for clues hidden in words. An example not related to poker is if someone says I was headed to work. That doesn’t mean they arrived at work. ” People will tell you, but they don’t realize they are telling you. Listen to every word they say,” Dresbold says. “There will always be clues in every word and everything that they say.”
  • Follow your instincts. “Your gut has a way of telling you somebody is lying,” she says. “Just listen to it.” Dresbold adds that women are much better at doing this than men.

There are ways to prevent others from figuring out your tells. Dresbold suggests wearing a hat, sunglasses, or even regular eyes glasses. “The more you cover your eyes and your head, the more likely it is someone can’t read you,” she says.

It’s also helpful to wear lightweight, breathable clothing, because when you lie “your body temperature goes up a bit and you will sweat a little bit more.”

But no matter how much you prepare, there will always be signs of deception.

“You may not think you’re giving anything away,” she says, “but you can’t help it. There’s only so much you can hide from yourself and others. You really don’t have control of everything.”

Michelle Dresbold’s “Sex, Lies and Handwriting” is available at,, and brick-and-mortar bookstores. Her website is, and she’s available for speaking engagements for business, social and educational groups. For more information, contact her at [email protected]

Michelle Dresbold