Caro's Book of Poker Tells
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

Mike Caro has been giving away poker secrets for nearly three decades. From his contributions to Doyle Brunson's Super System to his magazine articles featuring tips on strategy and statistics, the knowledge shared by the man known as the "Mad Genius of Poker" has been so widely disseminated by this point that much of what was once top-secret material is now considered common knowledge even by many beginning poker players. Caro's Book of Poker Tells, probably his most classic work, contains a good deal of information that has made its way into the poker vernacular. For online players who plan on playing live more often, this volume can still be a valuable source of information that can win them more money.

At the beginning of the Book of Poker Tells, Caro sets forth his Great Law of Tells: "Players are either acting or they aren't. If they are acting, then decide what they want you to do and disappoint them." Everything that's contained in this book follows from this Great Law, starting with the two main sections of the book: tells that come from actors and tells that come from those who are unaware. The tells from those who are unaware are the ones most likely to make you money over the long haul, because they give you information that a player doesn't realize he's divulging. The tells from players who are acting are designed to mislead you into making the wrong decision - you probably won't encounter them nearly as often as those from the unaware players, but when you do you'll be able to win or save yourself a lot of money by either picking off big bluffs or folding second-best hands at the right time.

Each section of the book is broken down into particular tells. These include how people handle and stack their chips, whether they double-check their cards, showing sudden interest in playing a hand after appearing distracted, and whether they appear confrontational or nervous. These tells are described in terms of how to spot the tell, how reliable the tell is, and what the motivation behind the tell is. Then Caro gives the best possible for strategy for acting on these tells. These individual sections can be overwhelming if read all together, as many of the tells seem to blend together. It's best to cover only a few at a time, making sure that you understand the full implications of each tell before trying to fully master a new one. This is made easier by the inclusion of Caro's Laws of Tells in almost every section, which break the text down into simple, easy-to-remember truisms.

To add to the information presented in the Book of Poker Tells, Caro includes photographs that demonstrate each of the tells that he's described. In all there are more than 170 of these photos in the book. Because this book was originally published almost 30 years ago, the appearance of some of the players in the photos can be humorous to today's audience. Some of the photos are also more useful than others, especially for those players who are more accustomed to learning from video than from still pictures. Not seeing the tells in action can sometimes make it hard to know exactly what one is looking for. (It's worth noting that Mr. Caro does have a DVD available which focuses on tells - it may be that those who have difficulty learning from the book will be more successful with the video.) Outside of examples involving people playing 5-card draw poker, this is probably the portion of the book that most shows it age.

Despite being one of the oldest poker books still in publication today, Caro's Book of Poker Tells is still a very useful resource. While you may have learned some of the information in the book from other sources to which it has trickled down over the years, it never hurts to go straight to the source. Caro's text is easy to read, often entertaining, and full of information necessary to crush the live game for all it's worth.

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