Say poker face and you probably have Lady Gaga’s breakout tune in your head. A poker face is the look associated with a player at the table when playing poker. Some are bad, some are cringy, some are laughable and a few are great.
Without fail, any TV show or movie depicting a poker scene will overstate its importance. Usually the actors’ faces and expressions, whist acting masterpieces they may be, are actually irrelevant to the hand. Getting a flashback to Casino Royale yet?
I don’t want to be too critical of the poker face. Your demeanor at the table is certainly a factor and anything you can do to help your chances of winning or earning more is worth considering. I think it is important to make a distinction between a poker face and poker tells (which we will write about in due course). Let’s explore some techniques that can help your poker face and ability to conceal your hand to your opponents.
Having a consistent look, whatever that may be is important. Poker players, like a predators hunting for any prey they can get, are hunting for information, whenever it is there to be taken. One of your goals in poker is to obtain as much information as possible, to make better decisions, but also give away as little as possible. If you’ve found a look you like. Stick with it and don’t stray.
This may seem trivial but it isn’t. Please remember to blink when you are being tared down. If you don’t, you will get nervous, anxious and your face will involuntarily give off information to an attentive opponent.
Keep eye contact with your opponent(s). Looking people in the eye is a psychological move that suggests you have nothing to hide. The flip-side is avoiding eye contact reveals you are afraid to look at your opponent. Perhaps you’re bluffing or doing a reverse bluff. Either way, eye contact is n important and again, should be consistent.
I am not a fan of developing a poker face but If you’re going to do something. Do it right. Look in the mirror, practice it. A good poker face should not require much work or facial contortion. It should be a comfortable and relaxed expression otherwise you are probably doing more harm than good.
The live poker environment is far safer than a few decades ago but remember there are still unsavory characters around. I don’t recommend developing a mean poker face and staring at these types. Your goal in poker is to win money and play well, not make enemies, have fights or anger people.