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How to Pull off Your Poker Face Like a Pro
Is your bluff not tough enough? Get the jitters or start to sweat whenever your opponent ups the bet? Then it sounds like your poker face is, quite frankly, an absolute disgrace. But hey, that’s okay, not all of us were born to deceive – that’s a skill that comes with practice.
If you want to be successful at a poker table, you’ll need a badass poker face. And so, we’re stepping in to help you perfect that misleading mug so you can swindle the poker pot straight into your pocket. Here are our top tips for perfecting your poker face.
What is a poker face and why is it important?
A poker face does NOT refer to Lady Gaga’s hit single from 2008. Although, we will admit that it was a pretty catchy tune. A poker face refers to the ability to conceal your tells when playing poker against other players. “Tells” are facial expressions, changes in behavior, or body language that convey a player’s positive or negative reactions to their cards or a specific situation when playing the game.
A poker face means you’re pulling a straight face without revealing your emotions or intentions, using it to mislead other players into thinking the opposite of what you’re feeling (also called bluffing), or simply giving them no way of telling where you stand with your current poker hand.
Pulling a poker face may feel like an aggressive move at first and seasoned poker players with enough poker face experience can make it look downright scary.
Just know that a poker face is part of the game, so remember to leave it at the table after playing or you might just get socked in the eye at your local supermarket or even when picking the kids up from school. On second thought, who knows, that might even improve your poker face.
5 tips for rocking your poker face
Okay, so now that you know what a poker face is, it’s time to learn how to pull this move off. Of course, not everyone can opt for the same type of poker face – it all depends on your tells, which brings us to the first tip.
1. Identify your tells
This may prove tough. You can’t exactly play poker against yourself in a mirror and expect to catch your own bluff. If you can manage that, then perhaps it’s YOU who should be writing this guide.
Anyway, you’ll need to figure this out somehow. If you’re serious about perfecting your poker face, ask a friend to play against you and try to identify your tells. Alternatively, recording your facial expressions as you play might also work, but let’s be honest, that’s definitely taking things to the next level.
Here are a few common poker tells to look out for:
- Eye contact – This is a sign of strength. When players feel comfortable with their poker hand they tend to make more eye contact.
- Reaction speed – Reacting to a situation quickly may indicate confidence, and reacting too slowly could indicate that you are unsure about your hand.
- Fidgeting and handling cards or chips – Some players tend to fiddle with chips or cards when nervous, and at times, even their hands start shaking or trembling.
- Attention levels – Lack of attention or seeming uninterested may indicate that you’re going to fold or have a weak hand – don’t let players take advantage of that.
- Tone of voice – Many players unintentionally reveal the strength of their hand with a confident tone of voice or when talking smack to other players.
- Double-checking cards – This could indicate weakness as it shows that you’re not certain of your next move.
- Goading – This refers to players openly urging or trying to force other players to make a move. It conveys confidence in your own hand unless you’re great at bluffing, which goes for all these tells.
Once you’ve identified your tells, it’s time to learn how to conceal them, so let’s get to it.
2. Find your ideal poker face and learn how to maintain your expressions
A human face consists of around 43 muscles – that’s a lot to control! But the key to discovering your poker face is finding the perfect balance between passiveness and aggression. You want to remain stern and unmoved by other players’ actions, but at the same time, seem totally expressionless.
No wait, not that one…
☝️Yup, that’s more like it. Stone cold, baby. Once you’ve found the perfect balance where your face is comfortable and your eyes don’t water and your mouth doesn’t twitch, keep practicing it. You want to be able to stare someone in the eye holding the worst hand possible, and still make the same face when you’re holding the nuts or rocking pocket aces, so keep that in mind
3. Disguise your tells and tendencies with props
If you can’t get that eyebrow to stop hopping or prevent your eyes from lighting up every time you see your cards for the first time, try wearing sunglasses to conceal them. This is a common practice in the world of poker, and very few will look twice. Just make sure they’re not too reflective, or you might give away your hand in the silliest way possible.
Not being funny here, but the pandemic has actually given poker players many more ways to accessorize with tell-concealing facial masks and buffs. This may also be something you can take advantage of – even if most folks aren’t really wearing them anymore.
Alternatively, you can also wear some sort of cap or hat which could help disguise your eyes from other players when peering down at your cards. Point is, be creative and accessorize, it will help if you really can’t pull off a poker face like the pros.
4. Body language is key
As mentioned in the common poker tells above, the speed at which you react to events during a poker game, as well as fidgeting with items on the poker table can expose you. But general body language also plays a big role in putting up your poker face.
Make sure you’re seated comfortably in your chair, don’t make too many sudden movements, and try to keep your body relaxed when playing poker. Try to place your cards down in the same position after checking them, as bringing them too close may indicate that you have a hand you want to keep.
You should also try to avoid making any moves or touching your chips or cards before it’s your turn to do so. This not only gives you the time to study your opponent’s moves and tells while they’re making them but actioning a move before your turn may show other players that you’re already thinking of calling or raising your bet, regardless of what your opponent is about to do.
5. Don’t let your tone of voice expose you
You just got a pocket pair dealt to your hand and you’re thrilled, so thrilled that you give out a little yelp or even, if you’re the cocky type, start talking smack to the other players. The joke is on you, buddy. You’ve just given your whole game plan away, and you might as well get up from your seat and take your restroom break now because everyone else has their target locked on YOU.
And if you are going to speak, stay cool and calm. Try not to sound like you just swallowed Tweety Bird if you just got a good hand and you really need to say something – something totally unrelated to your hand, of course.
Happy poker facing from Punt
Are you pulling it right now? We can almost imagine it. Don’t stop, pull that poker face till you drop! Ha – and you thought Lady Gaga was the only one talented enough to write lyrics about a poker face. Maybe you’re right. But for now, that’s our guide on how to whip out your poker face the next time you’re playing poker with pals or answering questions from the in-laws. Good luck, and may you live well and prosper with your newfound poker face.