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Read'em and Reap: Gather information like an FBI agent

7 November 2006

By Aaron Todd

Phil Hellmuth Presents: Read'em and Reap
Joe Navarro with Marvin Karlins
HarperCollins Publishers
List price: $18.95
Release date: November 7, 2006

In Brief: Former FBI agent Joe Navarro reveals the body language of poker tells in the latest poker strategy book, Read'em and Reap. Navarro details what players can learn about the strength of their opponents' hands by simple observation. The information is a valuable asset to any poker player's arsenal, from the casual home game player to the high-stakes card room player.

Book Review: Joe Navarro, a former counterintelligence special agent with the FBI, has taken up a new pursuit in retirement: teaching poker players how to interpret body language. Navarro, who has conducted seminars at Phil Hellmuth's instructional poker camps, imparts his knowledge for a fraction of the price in Read'em and Reap.

The book is littered with examples of how poker players give away the strength of their hands, and how you can take advantage of all the information that is available at a poker table.

Soon after finishing Read'em and Reap, I watched an episode of Season One of High Stakes Poker. In one particular hand, Fred Chamanara hit top pair on the flop in a hand with Dr. Amir Nasseri. He stood up, leaning out over the table to peer down at the cards on the board.

Chamanara bet the flop, and Nasseri raised to try to steal the pot with ace high. The move didn't work, and Nasseri ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars in the hand. If the doctor worked with Joe Navarro, he probably would have known that Chamanara was giving away the strength of his hand with a "gravity-defying tell."

According to Navarro, players who are confident will often lean in towards the middle of the table, lifting their chin to look down at the community cards. Some players will even rise out of their seats, as Chamanara did.

Navarro sums up this and other tells with classic rhyming axioms ("Taking a 'Stand' Can Mean a Good Hand"), giving the reader something to remember for the next trip to the card room.

Each tell is accompanied by a photo to illustrate what players should look for. The tips are also interspersed with brief sections by Hellmuth, who drives home Navarro's points with anecdotes from his own tournament play. Thankfully, these sections are limited to about 15 pages, as the descriptions and photos are much more valuable than Hellmuth's stories.

Navarro also gives advice on how players can avoid giving opponents information with their own body language.

Read'em and Reap is a great book for poker players who know the basics but are looking to advance their game and utilize information about the strength of their opponents' hands to make decisions at the poker table.

AT OffSuite

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.