A play action fake in football occurs when the quarterback fakes a handoff to the running back then throws the football to a receiver. Play action is one of the best ways to keep the defense off guard, as a good fake fools the defense into thinking a running play is developing and causes the defenders to be out of position momentarily. This gives the receivers a better chance of getting open and catching a pass from the quarterback.
In order for a play action fake to be successful, the quarterback and running back must do a good job of "selling" fake and convincing the defense that the running back is about to be handed the ball. The best play action fakes require the quarterback to physically place the ball in the running back's arms before pulling it out at the last second while the running back pretends to clamp down on the ball with his arms.
Play action fakes are most effective when they are used outside of an obvious passing situation. For example, if it is third or fourth down and the offense needs 10 or more yards, the defense knows that there is a high likelihood of the offense trying to complete a pass. On the other hand, if the offense needs only a few yards to secure a first down and keep possession of the ball, the defense is forced to honor a potential running play and a potential handoff becomes far more believable.