Mastering Your Poker Face

Everything you do at the poker table gives information to your opponents. Each, call, raise or fold says something to the opposition.

The way you stack your chips, how you put them in and how much you bet by also gives intel to your opponents. A great deal of this can be unavoidable, you have to check your cards, you need to see the board cards and you have to bet or raise.

People will be looking at you, as you look at them, hoping to see your emotional cues, to see how you react to the cards you’ve been dealt and to the flop, turn and river. Your body is essentially a transmitter at the table, particularly your face where a smile, a frown or an eye roll can speak volumes. One crucial element of live poker play is to dial down that frequency.

Practice

The most obvious issue you encounter in developing a poker face is that the one person you can’t see is yourself. It’s hard to know what information you offer up free when you play as your field of vision doesn’t allow it. Here’s where playing online comes in handy. Playing on your preferred site allows for a much more relaxed environment.

Nobody can see or hear you, nobody has the slightest idea of your thoughts or feelings either. It’s very easy to let yourself go in this situation. You might cheer when you get pocket aces, jump around when you win or a big pot or clench your fist when you pull off a good bluff. Conversely, you can sigh at getting dealt 7,2 or shout and swear if you suffer a bad beat or someone shows a bluff they’ve just put on you.

The first stage of creating your poker face is to tone things down online. Treat the whole game like a football match. You can go 2-0 down and win or you could go 2-0 up and lose. Save your celebrations or your grieving for full time, when the result is in and you’ve won or lost.

If you’re playing with others in the room they should have no idea how well you’ve done as you’ve sat there quietly during the whole session. Results may not be instant, but you’ll develop a sense of self-control that’ll stand you in good stead.

Twitch

Having followed the above and practiced a few times, you’ll feel that your poker face is well on the way to being developed. However you still have the issue that the one person who can’t see you is you.

You can use a service like Twitch, as opposed to physically twitching which of course won’t help! Alternatively, you can film yourself on your phone as you play and get a session or two recorded so that you can watch yourself back and see how well you’ve done. This has the added bonus that you’ll be reviewing how you’ve played too and every player needs to analyse their own game.

As far as the video is concerned, you can watch it back and can even get friends to watch it back with you too. How did you react when you were dealt a big hand, if at all? Did you smile when you flopped a flush? Did you raise your eyebrows when someone fish called you all the way to the river and beat you?

Pick up on any expressions, tics or mannerisms that you’ve displayed and make a note to try and eradicate them in future games. Again it may take time but your perseverance will be rewarded.

Playing Live

Having followed the steps above you can now put the theory into practice live. It might be worth playing a home game to test your inscrutability but remember that even though you’re among friends everyone is your enemy in poker!

Wherever you play live the test is different here. The game is slower, players and dealers have different paces and people can forget to post blinds or antes which can be annoying but you cannot show your displeasure.

There’s nearly always a table chatterbox who might just be a friendly type or more likely is trying to get you to open up or distract you. All of these things can prove frustrating, but your face cannot give that away.

Retain the same posture for each hand and the same emotionless expression. Your heart may be pumping and the adrenaline flowing, you may fear that you’re about to lose a big pot or certain you’re about to win a bigger one but your expression must be tranquil in both cases.

Your all-in situations are where your poker face will come under scrutiny the most. You’ll either have a monster, will have tried to get someone out of the pot with a bluff or you may not be quite sure where you stand.

The flop, turn and river will obviously have a huge influence on that and over the course of the deal you could end up in all three situations, on a rollercoaster ride at the mercy of the deck. Here, if you’re the one who’s made the move, this is where your opponent(s) will be staring at you intensely, hoping for a flicker from you and you must remain still, impassive, taking everything you’ve learned and practiced into account. Give them nothing and they will take nothing from you.


November 8, 2018 - Offer valid as of date published. T&Cs apply