A Poker Tell Of Strong Hands: The Eyebrow Flash

In this month's article I'm going to be talking about a high confidence tell that involves raising of the eyebrows. The “eyebrow flash” as we usually call it, is a very good indicator that a person is in a happy, positive and comfortable state of mind.

This is not to be confused with a raising of the eyebrows associated with the emotion of surprise. Although the muscles involved are similar, the eyebrow flash is usually not as quick as a micro-expression, which can be as fast as 1/25 of a second. But I will admit it’s very subtle. And sometimes, the eyebrow flash is done twice. This mean that the eyebrows will be lifted twice, a fraction of a second apart. But what really distinguishes the eyebrow flash with the emotion of surprise, is that it is usually associated with a smile or nodding of the head, indicating approval and happiness. As I have said, this is a really positive facial expression.

So you better understand the true value of this expression and it’s value at the poker table, let's start by watching the video below:


You'll notice that almost all the people shown in it are really happy; you can observe true, genuine smiles. Heck, watching them may even make you smile yourself. I know I was smiling when I watched it for the first time. Now, we have no clue as to why they are happy. But the feeling they are experiencing is undoubtedly a positive one. You can almost imagine they are seeing a long time friend for the first time in a while. Or that someone has told a funny story. More importantly, you'll notice how the eyebrows are lifted as the emotion is felt. And as you can see with the subjects in the video, this is a universal display. This is not a facial expression we learn by social ways, it's innate, no matter where we come from.

So, because this is a highly positive display, when you see this playing poker, it is almost always a sign that the player feels good about his hand or about the situation in general. He's comfortable, in a good mood, which means he's probably strong.

At the table, you will usually see the eyebrow flash in one of two situations:

When a player looks down at his cards

I've seen this display very often when a player looks down to see his cards, for example pre-flop, and sees that he's got a good hand. This is a very valuable tell, and one you can spot from a great distance. All you have to do is pay attention to a player's face when he looks down. Although it happens relatively fast, it's not as hard to see as say a micro-expression, which can be very subtle and much faster. This tell alone is one of the reasons why you should watch your opponents as they peek at their hole cards.
And with that in mind, take a look at the hand below featuring the great Doyle Brunson, who some would argue is the best player of all time.


Ah! The great Doyle Brunson has a tell. Well, ok, I've told you before in my other articles that everyone has a tell – and hint hint, Doyle has more than one :-). So Doyle is trying to restrain his facial expressions and not give anything away. He's trying to keep a good poker face, and you can see that the lower area of his face does not move much. But look at them eyebrows! The second he realizes he's got aces in the hole, his reaction is instantaneous: he flashes his eyebrows. We can certainly understand that he feels good and is happy about the hand.

When a player has bet or raised and has a conversation with others

The second situation where you might encounter this tell is when a player has bet or raised, and decides to talk. If' you've heard me discuss poker tells before you probably know I'm a big fan of engaging your opponents while in a hand, because it's usually a great moment to try to catch a tell or two. I've seen players keeping a great “poker face” suddenly crack a smile and flash me their eyebrows when I made a joke about the situation; a dead giveaway that they were comfortable and were holding a good hand.
In the hand below, we see Ted Forrest give away the strength of his hand while conversing after putting in a raise with pocket jacks.


He's happy, in a good mood, relaxed, and enjoying the situation. He's even smiling. And yup, these it is: the eyebrow flash.
So as you can see the eyebrow flash is one of the most reliable and valuable poker tells out there as far as high confidence displays. Remember that we flash our eyebrows when we are in a good mood, and see someone or hear something we really like.

And just as any poker and nonverbal displays you can see this facial expression in your everyday life. It's a facial expression used very often by men in courtship. If you're in a bar or a restaurant, you'll often see an eyebrow flash in the face of two people that know each other and that enjoy each others company, when they first greet. If someone you know greets you that way, you can be assured that they truly are happy to see you. It’s totally unconscious. Some experts claim it’s one the most instantly recognized universal non-verbal sign of greeting we humans use.
And as I said before, it's really important to engage your opponents and get them chatting and so that they are distracted from keeping a poker face. They will very often give away some of information that you can use against them. Make them laugh, and they will help grow your bankroll, it's a win – win situation :-).

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