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Learn everything you need to know about having a strong poker face and not giving away your hand.
Some people are easy to read, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You look at their face and can tell what they’re thinking and feeling. While this emotional transparency is very human, it could hurt you when you’re at the poker table.
You’ve probably heard the term “poker face” before (or at least the Lady Gaga song.) If you haven’t, it’s a term for keeping a blank, neutral face while playing poker or any other card game. Seeming stoic and calm are excellent tactics for keeping your opponents guessing at what you might have in your hand. If you’re disappointed with what you’re dealt and it shows, the other poker players can easily capitalize on this tell.
Where Does the Term “Poker Face” Come From?
The term “poker face” dates back to the 1800s. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a poker face is "A face lacking any interpretable expression, as that of an expert poker player."
Possibly the first published mention of the phrase came in the 1875 book “Round Games at Cards” by Henry Jones. The book details the advantage of putting on a poker face and not betraying the value of your hand during a card game.
These days, the phrase is commonplace. It’s even used outside the world of poker to refer to individuals who are emotionless in difficult situations.
How Can I Use a Poker Face to My Advantage?
A poker face is an essential tool for any card player. It gives you a great advantage while playing.
If your face is easy to read, your opponents might be able to guess if you’re happy with your hand, frustrated by it, or feel some emotion in between. That gives them the upper hand as they’ll make decisions regarding their gameplay based on what cards they think you might be holding. If they think your hand is strong, they might decide not to play theirs. In this case, even if you win, you won’t bring in as much money as you would have if they had continued playing.
The best thing you can do is remain completely neutral; don’t give your opponents any indication of what you’re holding. This privacy will hopefully allow you to play your hand without other players having any idea of what cards you have.
This secrecy could also trick your opponents into thinking you have a better hand than you do. Even if you have a weak hand, you can still walk away a winner by bluffing and letting other players believe your hand is better than it is.
If you’re playing poker at a casino, you’re more likely to utilize your poker face. Often, when you’re playing at online casinos , you don’t see the players at your table. However, technology has developed and evolved over the years. This means more online casinos and apps offer video chat options that allow you to look your opponents in the eye as you play, bringing the art of the poker face back into the online game.
How Can I Perfect My Poker Face?
It might sound easy, but putting on a poker face can be difficult for many people. It’s human nature for your expressions and body to indicate how you’re feeling. You’ll need to train yourself not to let these emotions show when you’re playing poker.
Here are some tips for perfecting your poker face:
- Relax your face: The most important thing to remember is to relax your face. Not only is this the first place where other poker players will look for tells but it’s also where you’ll have the strongest response to your hand. It all comes down to knowing how to relax quickly. Since you want to control your facial movements, you need to clear your mind before you even look at your cards. This will stop you from showing a gut reaction to what you’ve been dealt. Some ways to relax include deep breathing and wiggling your facial muscles.
- Don’t break eye contact: No matter what hand you’re dealt during a game of Texas Hold'Em or 5-Card Draw, maintain eye contact if you want to show confidence in front of the other players. By meeting their gaze, you’ll exhibit cool confidence that will leave them uncertain about what cards you’re holding.
- Speak naturally: This might be easier said than done, but when you speak to other players, use your natural speaking voice. If you sound strained, they might think you are concerned about your hand. If you sound elated, they might think you have an amazing hand. In either case, they’ll adjust their strategy accordingly. Also, if possible, speak very little. If you’re stumbling over your speech, that will give your hand away.
- Don’t move your lips or eyebrows suddenly: No matter how you feel about a hand, good or bad, moving your lips or eyebrows suddenly screams drama. This indicates that you either have a very good or very bad hand.
- Wear sunglasses: Sometimes, no matter how much you practice, your eyes will give away your true feelings. Consider wearing sunglasses while playing to avoid giving your hand away.
What Body Language Should I Avoid?
The phrase might be “poker face,” but there’s more to it than your facial expressions. Inexperienced poker players might not realize that their body language could also give away what they’re thinking and feeling.
If you have a weak hand and are bluffing, here are some body language and facial expressions that could give it away:
- An insincere smile: Other players will see right through this.
- Eye rolling, blinking, or squinting: This could indicate displeasure.
- Changes in how you speak: If your language feels forced, rambling, high-pitched, slower, or any way other than how you normally speak, this could be a sign of anxiousness.
- Nail or lip biting: These are classic signs of nerves.
- Breathing patterns: If you breathe deeply and loudly through your mouth, you may appear anxious to other poker players. Likewise, if you hold your breath and stay still, that’s also a telltale sign.
- Your hand placement: Covering your eyes or mouth while playing poker could be signaling that you’re unhappy with your hand. The same goes for hugging yourself or pulling your hands and arms toward your body. Nervous wringing of your hands or pressing together or rubbing other parts of your body — your neck, chin, hair, arms, or face — can also come across as anxious movements.
- Your mouth could give it away: In addition to an odd smile or lip biting, there are other actions in your mouth area that could give away your anxiety, such as licking, sticking out, or tensing your lips. Chewing gum is an indicator of nervous energy, as is grinding your teeth. And if you inhale at any point in the game of poker, especially during the flop, that could show your nervousness.
Likewise, there is body language to avoid so you don’t give away the strength of your hand. These actions include:
- Suddenly sitting back in your chair: This relaxation sign could indicate that you think you have the game in the bag.
- Suddenly sitting up in your chair or holding any part of your body in the air: This could indicate excitement of your hand.
- A relaxed look: If your lips are relaxed or you have an easy smile, this might show that you’re feeling good about your hand.
- The look in your eyes: If your eyes stay open and focused, without blinking, this hyper-alert status might give away the strength of your hand.
- Being eager to bet: If you’re ready to bet and it seems like you want to move the game along quickly, this could let others know you’re holding a strong hand.
Try Out Your Poker Face With the Right Online Poker Game
If you want to try out your poker face, let GamblersPick help find the right online casino for you. Not all have video chat or live play components, but our platform can help you find one that does.
GamblersPick is an authority on online gambling. We’re here to find the right casino for you based on the games you like to play and how you like to play them, your location, and your preferred payment method. Whether you live in Las Vegas and you're a poker champion, or you live in New York and are just learning poker during the pandemic, we can help you find the right casino and games.
Our website is also a comprehensive resource to help you explore online gaming sites in a safe and responsible way. We compile players’ real-life experiences at various casinos and gaming platforms so you know exactly what to expect with the first hand you’re dealt.
Poker Face FAQs
What does it mean to have a poker face?
Having a poker face means that you have a blank and neutral face, even in times of stress or other high emotions. The term originated from the late 1800s and was used to describe stealthy poker players who kept a good poker face as to not reveal if their hand was a winner or a loser.
Is it good to have a poker face?
Having the perfect poker face can be an excellent quality in the right situation whether it's during a game of poker, negotiating with a car salesman, or during any other high stakes personal experience.
What does a poker face look like?
The poker face varies from person to person, but a true poker face should be of a neutral expression that doesn't reveal your inner emotions or thoughts.
Does "Poker Face," say the F word?
If your idea of a poker face is the popular Lady Gaga song inspired by Texas Hold'Em, then we can answer this one for you. According to the lyrics of the 2008 song, "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga contains the "F word" within the post-chorus. If you need help with a non-poker-related song, like "Just Dance", we can't help you.