Even Phil Ivey has a Tell

Why do people get caught lying? The average person lies 3x in a 10 minute conversation. That’s 1,616,220 lies in a lifetime.  True many of those lies are your garden variety little white lies, harmless exaggerations, omissions, etc. So why is it, with all that practice, we still get caught?

The answer to that question, albeit rather complex, can be boiled down into three distinct reasons.

1.  Deception Guilt – to put it simply, the guilt someone feels associated with telling a lie.  Deception guilt is more likely  to occur when the parties have some sort of relationship.

2.  Detection Apprehension – the fear of getting caught.

3.  Duping Delight – the joy of successfully deceiving the other party.

Each one of these reactions can occur separately, or in any combination when someone lies.  Their presence, is largely a result of the individual’s personal values or lack of values.

The internal reaction triggers an automatic elevation in stress which manifests itself in any number of verbal, voice, or visual cues.  Governed by the Autonomic Nervous System these reactions are involuntary.  Everyone reacts differently, depending on the circumstance surrounding the situation.  When negotiating, you need to observe your counterpart closely to monitor for the tell tale signs of increased stress especially at the “crunch points”.  The primary crunch points are

  • When you are asking a question
  • When the other party is responding to a question or proposal
  • When the other party is delivering a proposal

Phil Ivey is considered one of the best poker players in the world.  2009 was the first time he reached the final table of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.  As a professional poker player, Phil is, for lack of a better description, a professional liar.

In the video below, Phil successfully bluffs his opponents in 2 consecutive hands.

Hand #1 – In the first hand against Jeff Shulman, notice Phil’s stoic masking expression immediately following the end of the hand.  If you are looking for emotional leakage, forget it, nothing.  That is the definition of a poker face.

Hand #2 – In the second hand against Jeff Begleiter, again Ivey successfully bluffs and takes down the pot.  However, this time something is different.  Amateur Darvin Moon, makes a seemingly harmless comment which triggers a huge response.  Phil is unable to control the delight he is feeling from his successful rouse.  Darvin’s comments, whether intentional or otherwise, were brilliant.  By simply stating an assumption as if it were a fact, Darvin is able to engage Ivey and illicit a response.

Phil’s reaction is an excellent example of Duping Delight, and a reminder that even the most accomplished liars make mistakes.  The key ingredient is to engage the other party and keep them talking.

In my next post I  will explore Darvin’s comments and the power of making assumptions.

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