Since Deanna Troi can tell when someone is lying, why would she be allowed to join a poker game with the other head officers in their weekly poker game?

Wouldn't she always win? Or at least know when someone is bluffing?

  • 1
    If there's no money, there's no reason not to let her play, and there's no reason for her to extensively use her talents to win - she has no reason to 'cheat' (even if her skills were strong enough).
    – Jeff
    Oct 31, 2011 at 13:30
  • 3
    I loved the poker scenes.
    – ripper234
    Nov 22, 2011 at 20:45
  • 7
    Similarly, Geordi can see through the cards using his visor. (See this page, about halfway down.) Dec 24, 2011 at 21:32
  • 4
    Who would win a poker game in which one person always knows who is bluffing, one person can see what all the cards are, one person can stack the deck without anyone knowing, and one person is the best bluffer in the alpha quadrant and also your XO?
    – user11521
    Apr 28, 2014 at 18:53
  • @Michael who is the third, stacking person? I haven't watched TNG in a looooooong time
    – Petersaber
    Jun 26, 2015 at 10:54

3 Answers 3


Reading emotions isn't the same as telepathy; I think it would give her a significant advantage, but, as any experienced liar (or poker player) can tell you -- lying when in close quarters with someone is basically a matter of controlling your emotions and responses.

When playing poker, everyone knows to look for 'Tells' that people have; the inexperienced player will allow their eyes to widen when they get a card that makes them happy. Or smile slightly, not realizing that they are doing so. And so forth.

Deanna had SOME empathic ability, and could spot gross changes in someone's mood, and perhaps the change in their mood when they tried to lie.. But an experienced poker player, who is used to holding his/her emotions in check would probably be a pretty good exercise for her.

It should be noted that she almost never bluffed; makes sense -- she knows how to spot others 'tells' pretty well, but probably has limited experience suppressing her own.

  • 1
    +1 - but i would think that as ships counselor she would have plenty of experience suppressing her own tells.
    – Chad
    Dec 28, 2011 at 19:55
  • Somewhat; but, remember, she's used to dealing with people 'opening up' to her, and telling her things that she simply has to suppress a reaction to. In poker, she is having her own normal responses, and her skill as an empath make actually make it harder to suppress them; able to 'feel' deception, fear and so forth, would she ever have learned how to read the way a person's eyes move, or lips twitch? And, even with a nodding familiarly with them, it takes quite a bit of experience to not just suppress them in yourself, but suppress the visible signs of them trying to come out.
    – K-H-W
    Dec 28, 2011 at 22:47
  • @chad - Incidentally, although I don't recall seeing it in STTNG, with Deanna, that's also one of the reasons the traditional image of the therapist and patient has the patient lying on a couch, unable to see the therapist, who CAN see them. It allows the therapist to see the patients responses, but hides the therapist's responses. Not that common, anymore, but therapist's lack of the ability to hide responses is one of the reasons it was the default for a long time.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 7, 2015 at 14:15
  • Hmmm... it's one thing to hide your visual (or possibly audio) "tells" in a game of poker but I think it would take a very experienced player indeed (one experienced in playing against betazoids!) to be able to hide their internal mental tells... From seeing her throughout the series, I'd say she has a very serious edge and would probably be easily able to tell if anyone (other than Data) is bluffing...
    – komodosp
    Jan 19, 2021 at 12:26

She's an empath, not a telepath. Her readings aren't 100% on target and many empaths or psychics can tune it out.

The more serious threat to a poker game would be Geordi, who could see the actual cards each person was holding.

Neither of them used their "superpowers" in poker games. (Think of how that would have affected them in terms of the trust and respect of their friends and people whose trust and respect could have life or death implications.)

  • 3
    I think it was in the episode where Worf's back was broken Geordi did mention to Worf that he could see through the cards, but didn't look until after the hand.
    – Xantec
    Oct 30, 2011 at 0:11
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    I seem to remember Data calculating the odds that various people were bluffing, essentially card counting. Oct 30, 2011 at 7:42
  • Yes, Data would have had his own leg up in several ways (I remember the episode where the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, and the other players openly wonder if Data is stacking the deck as he shuffles at superhuman speed), but like the others, he doesn't take advantage.
    – KeithS
    Oct 31, 2011 at 14:47
  • 2
    @Wikis: Didn't he lose when he tried that? I thought that incident was supposed to be a lesson to Data that poker is more about playing your opponents than playing your hand. Dec 24, 2011 at 20:32
  • @Lèsemajesté: oh, yes, I think you're right. Dec 24, 2011 at 20:40

Somewhere there's a discussion like this:

Some guy: I heard Riker plays poker with a telepath and a card-counting android. Doesn't sound very smart to me.

Picard(?): but that's the point. He usually wins.

So, it's just a question of how well you present yourself. Data might be able to calculate if you are flagrantly bluffing, and apparently Worf "never bluffs", so it doesn't seem like Troi is much of a risk. I still wouldn't invite her mother.

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