I meant to put this up a lot earlier, but here it is.
Last November (2013), I was in Vegas, hired by Amir Lehavot to study his opponents (and himself) at the WSOP ME final table. After Lehavot went out in third, I still watched the final heads-up portion of the game closely from a hotel room on the 15-minute delay.
Earlier in the WSOP ME coverage, on Day 6, Norman Chad had given me a very nice shout-out (here’s the blog post about it). I was very surprised to hear him give me another shout-out during this much-more-heavily-watched heads-up part of the WSOP footage. I got a bunch of texts and emails from people who’d heard it, which was cool.
Chad gave me a shout-out after a very important hand in the heads-up match; after Jay Farber makes a big bet on the river with a flush and Ryan Riess called with just queen-high. Riess tanked for quite a while. During that time, Farber’s rail started cheering and making funny comments, and this led Farber to show some very genuine smiles. At one point, it almost looked like he was about ready to burst into laughter; that’s how loose and genuine it appeared.
At that point, seeing Farber’s very genuine, loose smile, I was 99% certain Farber had a strong hand. It was the most sure I’d been of any behavior I’d seen at that year’s final table. It’s just so hard for a bluffer to be able to fake such exuberance and enjoyment. I even went on Twitter at that second and tweeted “If Farber’s bluffing here, I’ll eat my hat.”
Sure enough, he had the flush. It’s kind of funny, then, given the strength of my real-time read that Norman Chad picked this hand to give me and my book a shout-out. After the hand was over, he mentioned a chapter in my book where I discuss “small, arrogant smiles” from bluffers. In the book, I talk about how some bluffers have an instinct to appear happy or relaxed and this can manifest as a small smile. But that is actually a much different behavior (and one that ideally should be noticed to be player-specific before being acted on) than a player who makes a very exuberant, dynamic smile. While it’s easy for someone who’s value-betting to have a wide range of behaviors (including big smiles, small smiles, and no smiles at all), it’s very hard for a bluffer, who’s anxious, to emit a very big smile.
Chad got on that tangent because Antonio Esfandiari, in the booth, started talking about how a “little smile” was a “bad sign,” and that it meant there was a good chance he was bluffing. Esfandiari was referencing the idea of the “little smile” from a bluffer being a common thing, and that’s what led to Chad referencing the book.
Here’s the video. Start at around 13:30 to see the full range of behavior, to hear Antonio Esfandiari’s analysis, and to hear Norman Chad mention my book after the hand is over. Also notice how Ryan Riess purposefully tries to engage with and interact with Farber, to try to get some behavioral information.