Poker Face

You are playing Texas Holdem and upon looking at your cards, you notice that you have pocket aces.  The guy next to you says, “That good eh?”  He and everyone else at the table folds.  You curse yourself about your bad luck when someone asks if you had aces.  You are amazed that they knew.  They then proceed to tell you that when you looked at your cards, your eyes almost doubled in size.  Everyone else noticed it and folded.  Essentially, you don’t have a very good poker face.  One of the most basic tools that a person should have at the poker table is a poker face.  If you don’t have one, you will regularly give information away to your opponents.  Here are some tips to improving your poker face.

First, you need to relax and learn how to keep your emotions in check.  It may be exciting to pick up pocket aces, but you need to have the same expression on your face whether you have pocket aces or 7-2 offsuit.  Keep in mind that no matter how great your starting hand is, it is still just a starting hand.  Things can, and do change, with the turn of a card.  Practice controlled breathing while in your hands.  Let the muscles in your face relax and try to have a very indifferent look on your face.  This takes some practice if you are new, but it is something that you can learn with time.

Next, be wary of your blink rate and how much you look around.  Some people have a tendency of blinking faster or slower when they have a hand.  See if you can figure out if you fall into this category.  Also, you need to control how much you look around.  Try and setup a pattern of behavior.  Personally, I like to watch all the action before it gets to me and then look at my cards.  I then look at the players left to act and then act.  I do this regardless of whether I am going to fold or bet.  Also, some people intently stare at the other players when they get a big hand.  This will give away that you are ready to act and probably have a big hand.  Sometimes it is the little things that make or break a poker hand.

Avoid clinching your teeth or grinding your teeth.  Sometimes this is a nervous habit that people will do if they are stressed.  People can pick up on this.  Also, don’t do what I call the dog ear syndrome.  Some people will get a big hand and their ears will move either up or back.  This is the equivalent to a dog hearing a sound they like or don’t like.  Either event, something has happened to draw your attention and you just told everyone.

Now there are some things that cannot be avoided that happen as a natural human response.  For example, when a person sees something they like, their pupils will dilate.  When they see something they don’t like, they will constrict.  Obviously, you sometimes can’t see the pupils of people’s eyes clearly or at all depending on your vision, but if you can, it’s something you can use for your arsenal.  At the same time, your opponent can use the same.

Next, there are some people that have certain nervous ticks that they haven’t learned to control when they are stressed or excited.  If you spot this try and see what triggers it.  Something else that goes along with this is that some players will have a vein pulsating in their neck when they are stressed or excited.  Adrenaline is pumping and they are either in a big hand or a big bluff.  This is more common in newer players.

If you have any of the flaws in your poker face that was listed above, do your best to try and improve on them.  Some aspects can be corrected with practice and time.  Developing a behavior pattern will go a long way in improving your poker face.  Other aspects may be less tricky.  If you have a hard time controlling yourself in looking around, you may want to wear sunglasses.  A lot of players have very expressive eyes and the use of sunglasses helps to shield them from giving up information.  (And you thought that the sunglasses were to look cool.)  If you have a pulsating vein problem and can do something to cover it, then do so.

Whether you are a recreational player or a serious player, a solid poker face is essential.  One of your jobs as a player is to give as little information as possible to your opponent.  Having a strong poker face will go a long way in helping you to achieve this goal and in the end, it will help you win more money.

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