How to Spot a Liar, According to a Pro Poker Player

This content is recommended for 30~60 minute sessions. Note that tutors may not be familiar with the content. Make sure you consult with your tutor before using this material. 


After a quick greeting, read the following article out loud. Your tutor will go over pronunciation if necessary.

CREDIT: Getty Images

[P1] If you want to learn how to structure M&A deals or optimize business processes you should probably go to business school. If you want to learn to evaluate other people on the fly, you could try getting really good at poker instead.

[P2] Raking it in against other skilled players at the poker table demands not just that you know your way around a deck of cards, but also that you understand your fellow human beings. Which is why top players are all expert lie detectors, using body language cues to tell when someone is truly confident and when they’re bluffing.

[P3] These tricks are as useful at the negotiating table as they are at the poker table, suggests articulate poker champ Liv Boeree in the fun, short video below (hat tip to awesome design blog Swiss Miss). In it, Boeree shares a few of her best tips to read someone’s body language, whether you’re going to hit the casino, discuss a huge deal, or evaluate interview candidates.

[P4] Get a baseline. Boeree calls this the most important part of reading body language. “It’s impossible to tell whether the behavior someone’s showing is meaningful or not if you don’t know how they naturally behave,” she says. So before the stakes are high, observe your opponent in relaxed situations — Is his body language naturally open or closed? Is she usually gregarious or quiet?

[P5] Trust your natural nose for authenticity. “As a rule of thumb, humans are generally quite good at picking up authenticity,” Boeree insists. If you feel that someone isn’t being honest, listen to your gut, but also be aware that seasoned pros are generally hyper aware of their body language. Anything too obvious, therefore, is probably just a play to mislead you.

[P6] Look lower. People are very aware of their faces, and generally do a good job of controlling their facial expressions. That’s less and less true the lower down the body you go. “We call it happy feet in poker,” explains Boeree of the situation where a player gives away their strong hand with their jiggling, excited feet. “The feet are often the most reliable thing to look at,” she claims.



Read the word/expression and definition out loud. Your tutor will go over anything you do not understand. Practice creating a sentence or two to make sure you know how to use the word/expression properly.

Vocabulary/ Expressions

Expression Definition
on the fly (idiom) quickly and informally, without thought or preparation
e.g. I ran into my boss in town, so I had to think up an excuse on the fly as to why I wasn’t at work.
rake in (p.v) to acquire or accumulate an abundance of something, especially money
e.g. Ever since his smartphone app became a worldwide sensation, Bill has been raking in the cash!
high stakes (idiom) high-risk, dangerous
e.g. Don’t start something new when the stakes are high.
gregarious (adj) enjoying the company of other people
e.g. She is outgoing and gregarious.
a rule of thumb (idiom) an approximation; a suggested method or guideline
e.g. A good rule of thumb is to plant your seedlings around the end of May.

Discussion Questions

Use the following questions as a guideline to help develop an interesting conversation with your tutor. Feel free to diverge from these suggestions if anything interesting comes up.

  1. Summarize the article in your own words.
  2. To whom the author suggests learning poker instead of going to business schools?
  3. What are some rules of thumbs to read people that Boeree suggests?
  4. What are some of your tricks to read people? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!


Go over any new expressions or vocabulary that you learned today.

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