Speed Reads

Poker Faces

John Boehner has a clear tell when things aren't going well, says Paul Ryan

If you ever find yourself in a poker game with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), watch for when he breaks out the cigarettes. "If it’s a good meeting, he might go without one," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) writes in his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea. "If things are tense or frustrating, he'll start about halfway through." But at a meeting right before last fall's government shutdown, which both Boehner and Ryan thought a bad idea, "he was already smoking when we got there," Ryan recalls.

In poker, cigarettes could be Boehner's "tell." Here, Joe Montagna explains the tell in David Mamet's 1987 cult classic House of Games:

The downside of spotting a "tell," as Montagna's character explains, is that if other gamblers know you know their tell, they can use it against you — as Le Chiffre did to James Bond in Casino Royale. If Vice President Joe Biden writes a book sharing President Obama's nervous tic, CSPAN should revive an idea from the early days of the Obama administration and televise negotiations between Washington's top Democrat and Republican — preferably in a room where smoking is allowed.