|Author: Joe Navarro
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Pub. Date: 2006
Book Review: Part 1
Part of poker mastery is understanding the psychology the game includes, and no better book on the topic exists than Joe Navarro’s Read ‘em and Reap, a masterful insight into interpreting the body language of others. It’s for all levels of players, beginner through expert. Read it and win.
Joe Navarro came to the poker world from about as straitlaced a mainstream profession as one can imagine. His former job was working for the United States’ famed Federal Bureau of Investigation as an agent specializing in nonverbal communication – that is, deciphering a person’s body language. Navarro spent 25 years at the FBI before sharing some of his expertise with the general public in such books as What Every Body is Saying and Louder than Words, and his path into the poker world came via a chance pairing with famed player Annie Duke on a 2004 Discovery Channel program about reading people, among a poker player’s most vital skills in a live game. Duke was impressed enough with Navarro’s skills to mention him to Phil Hellmuth, which in turn would lead to Navarro giving an ongoing series as part of the WSOP Academy’s traveling series of poker camps. Navarro’s talks, in fact, are one of the things no other competing camps could offer, and having attended one, this author can attest to the distinctiveness and quality of Navarro’s lessons.
Read ‘em and Reap, a play on the famed poker saying “Read ‘em and weep” (and fully titled Phil Hellmuth Presents: Read ‘em and Reap: A Career FBI Agent’s Guide to Decoding Poker Tells), is another form of the talks that Navarro provides, and is certainly the most important book on the nonverbal communications within poker since the seminal Caro’s Book of Poker Tells a quarter century earlier. Navarro’s book was so enthusiastically received that poker players soon began sampling his more general works on body language, such as the more recent Louder than Words. But Read ‘em and Reap is his poker-specific tome, and it’s the vital work for any serious live-game player. Hellmuth’s name and mug were added to the title and cover as an additional marketing boost, too, though his contribution here is an introduction of marginal value and occasional snippets scattered throughout the book. Hellmuth’s insertions here are almost a distraction, merely an ornament to get through before getting on to the better stuff from Navarro.
In Read ‘em and Reap, Navarro breaks down his insights into a series of chapter-length lessons designed to be easily digestible to readers. The first chapter delves into why understanding tells is necessary to becoming a good poker player, including such topics as “Learning to Observe”, “Effective Observation at the Poker Table” and “Decipher and Evaluate”. Chapter two starts off with some science basics regarding the human brain’s limbic system and its physical manifestations. Navarro packages that up as “The Three ‘F’s You Need to Know to Play Poker” – freeze, flight and fright, and how to recognize them and interpret these reactions’ meanings at the table.