Poker Face? Body Language Expert Shares Facial Tells that Reveal Deception

4 min read

With so many players returning to live poker, it’s a good time for the CardsChat community to reacquaint ourselves with the science of poker tells. There’s a lot of money to be made — or given away — due to telltale signs when someone is lying.

We’ve teamed up with Adrianne Carter, aka “The Face Whisperer,” to dissect facial expressions that people make unconsciously when they’re telling a lie. We’ve also asked her WHY some people are better at lying than others and HOW you can master keeping the ultimate poker face.


Carter is a counselor, psychotherapist, and certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Natural Success psychology coach. Known as The Face Whisperer, she has worked with brands all over the world, including Apple, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and The National Trust. Her skill set allows her to objectively interpret emotion from facial expressions.

There are 43 muscles in the face. And these 43 facial muscles can make over 16,500 different facial expressions. Three thousand of those are directly linked to emotions.

Who knew there were so many ways your face could be telling someone how you’re feeling, regardless of what the words coming out of your mouth? It wasn’t hard for us to realize just how profitable that insight might be in poker?

Why are some people better at hiding their lies?

There’s no doubt that some people seem to lie a lot better than others, while many of us can’t lie without someone being able to call our bluff. So why can some people like better than the rest of us? Carter says there are two reasons:

→ They may be practiced in lying

Some start lying from a young age to get themselves out of trouble. At a young age, they learn that they’re able to lie and get away with something and therefore when they’ve entered adulthood they’re fully practiced at lying.

They come across as better liars because they believe their lies

These are near impossible to spot as the person will have told the lie to themselves so many times that they actually believe it to be true themselves.

What are the tell-tale signs that someone’s lying? 

As an expert in faces, emotions, and body language, Carter believes that there are three common tell-tale signs to look out for when someone hasn’t mastered the poker face and might be telling you they’re lying, without saying the words … from looking at how much their eyes are darting back and forth and how their blinking rate may increase, through to whether they touch their face or their neck.

facial poker tells
(click to enlarge)

That’s not all though …

There are tons of additional signs you may be giving off without realizing it when telling a lie – or that you might want to look out for if you’re unsure if someone is lying to you – such as: 

  • Closing the eyes for more than a second (not just a quick blink)
  • A false smile that doesn’t spread to the eyes
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Shaking the head while saying something out loud
  • A change in tone of voice
  • Excessive fidgeting

Does the direction someone looks reveal a lie?

One common belief is that the direction you look while telling a story can determine if you’re telling the truth or telling a lie. Apparently, depending on whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, if you look up and toward one direction (right or left) it can tell people whether you’re recalling a story or if you’re in fact inventing one.

However, Carter says there is no scientific evidence that proves this.

The ultimate poker face

Let’s be honest — we know that’s why you’re here. To find out how to hide your true emotions and not be caught out in the middle of telling an elaborate lie.

Believe it or not, when telling a lie most people stiffen up in an attempt to show no visible emotion – they’re putting too much effort into hiding their lie and if anything, this is more of a giveaway as it just looks so unnatural.

The big secret to a successful poker face is to just relax. Leave yourself with a neutral facial expression, offering no muscle movement, and no one will be able to tell what you’re thinking, feeling or whether or not you’re spinning a lie – or, if you’re into a game of poker, whether or not you have a great hand to play. 

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