Tips to master your poker face

One of the most pivotal aspects of a good card player is their poker face. Lady Gaga boasts about hers on the song, “Poker Face” from her debut album: but is it fair that Lady Gaga can even claim to have a poker face when her face is covered in a quarter inch of make-up? In fairness it’s like wearing a balaclava when that much make-up is concerned. So how do you work on your own poker face? What makes a decent poker face? We’ll take a look at what a “poker face” is and then give you 10 tips on how to improve or master your own poker face.

What is a poker face?

A poker face is a skill to maintain a blank, expressionless look or demeanour despite what you may be thinking or what cards you might have during a game of poker. However your poker face doesn’t necessarily refer to your face. It is more like an aura, or a vibe. But at the same time, it can exclusively refer to your face. Go figure.

Peter Griffin's poker face

While it’s open to interpretation, your poker face is the ability to show nothing to your opposition when playing poker. It’s your ability to keep cool whether things are going your way or not.

If you have a perfectly neutral or blank expression then your opponents won’t be able to determine what sort of cards you have because you will not have given anything away. A decent poker face must be maintained throughout every hand of every game of poker you play. With this in mind it can be tiring maintaining a poker face through every deal, every flop, every turn, every river, every raise, every sit, every win or every loss.

Pros with the best poker face

Polish born Dominik Panka wears a different pair of sun glasses to each event and seems to stare off into the distance when playing and seems to move only in slow-motion.

American Phil Ivey boasts a poker face that borders on perpetual anger and frustration. Whatever it is, it works.

French woman Gaelle Baumann plays with an almost duck face and registers the end of a winning hand with a tight grin.

The now deceased Stu Ungar is probably the most widely praised as being one of the best poker players of all time. Sitting at the table with Ungar drove some players to despair with his stoney gaze and relentless clicking of his chips enough to drive anyone mad.

Here are 10 tips for improving your poker face:

10. Buy sun glasses

This is an old trick used by many of the best poker players in the world today. The theory goes if people can’t see your eyes, then they can’t see your reactions.

Some people have a subconscious physical reaction: this could be to something like good pocket cards or a raised bet, this reaction is sometimes manifested by the punter’s pupils dilating. If this occurs then the player has inadvertently given his opponents a glimpse into their cards or intentions.

By whacking on a pair of Ray Bans this whole problem is eliminated. And you look cool as hell while playing poker too.

9. Wear a hoodie

The hoodie up is essentially the same as a pair of sunnies. The shadow created by the hoodie draped over your head covers the eyes, saving your pesky adversaries from picking up on any unintentional eye signals.

8. Listen to headphones

This is another tried and true way of maintaining your dead-pan poker face: listen to music. Not only that, but your pre-occupation with the tunes gives the other players at the table a sense of your “nonchalance.”

Don’t get me wrong, you can still concentrate on your cards and the game, but it’s not as easy for your opponents to read you when you are clearly grooving away to Justin Bieber’s “Baby, Baby, Baby”. People don’t know how to take someone seriously when their mind seems elsewhere and that’s exactly what you want to be: an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

7. Chew gum

There is nothing in this world that makes someone look more slack-jawed and dim-witted than chewing gum. Just perpetually chewing gum at the table will leave your fellow punters dismissing you as disinterested and a half-wit. It’s when you have lowered peoples expectations that you have a lot of wiggle room.

6. Play With Your Chips

This was a technique mastered by the king of Texas Hold ‘Em poker, Stu Ungar. It is said that Ungar’s playing with his chips during games was like perpetual motion: he never stopped shuffling or flipping them. But that didn’t affect his game because it is also said he would act on a hand in an instant. If you can master a tactic like this then your poker face will just come naturally as a result.

5. Grow a Seedy Moustache

If there is anything in this world that throws people and makes them a little uncomfortable, it is a great big bushy moustache: a Stalin-style soup-strainer. With a hefty moustache like that it doesn’t matter if your poker face is poor or if you have any facial ticks or tells, people will be too preoccupied staring at your mo’ to be able to notice.

4. Think happy thoughts

This may seem a little too much like Peter Pan trying to fly with pixie dust, but it works. Thinking about happy thoughts, a fun recent memory or a favourite sexual encounter will give you a sense of serenity and calm that will result in a naturally placid facial expression: the perfect poker face.

3. Pretend you have diarrhoea

Ok, this may seem grotesque but is surprisingly effective. The look on someone’s face when they are battling to save an eruption in the pants department is unmistakeable. Someone could be conjuring up a hateful voodoo spell in their mind at you, but if they were staving off a bout of gastro you would be none the wiser.

2. Drink a little whiskey

There is a magical number of drinks – usually around three or four, but it varies from person to person – where your face goes a little slack but you maintain clarity of mind. This is sort of the cheats way to achieve a poker face, but who cares as long as it works and the other punters can’t see into your soul or through your cards?

1. Any Combination of the Above Suggestions

Any combination of the above will guarantee an iron-clad, dead pan look slapped all over your Chevy Chase at all times. To the other mugs at the table, reading your face will be harder than Chinese algebra. Get creative, sit at a table with a dirty great moustache, sunnies, hoodie, chewing gum and pretending you have diarrhoea.

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