“So, do you have a good poker face?”
When I meet people casually and strike up a conversation about poker, they always ask this question.
In my experience this is the leading misconception about the game: whether or not I smile during a hand will not determine if I win or lose.
It is truly not a big deal.
The trouble is that people are actually asking the wrong question!
It’s not whether or not I can keep a straight face, but whether I can conceal the way I feel.
If a player is confident and doing the following, then chances are they are value betting because they know that they can’t lose:
- Sitting up tall
- Moving deliberately
- Speaking steadily
- Seem relaxed
Either their opponent calls and they win or he folds and they win.
Conversely if someone is doing the following, then chances are they are bluffing. If someone is bluffing, it’s all on the line.:
- Being timid
- Their voice is shaky
- Breathing heavily,
They need their opponent-the person sitting right across from them- to fold or they will lose the pot. It’s a tight spot and you can almost feel the pressure; especially from less experienced players.
The issue with reading too much into someone’s behavior at the table is that it’s not consistent for everyone.
Some people are nervous even though they are value-betting.
I’ve seen men with hearts beating out of their chest all-in with AA preflop.
I’ve conversely seen people run insane all-in bluffs where they seemed perfectly convinced their opponent would fold 100% of the time.
There are also cases where players are privy to this sort of behavior and mix it up, acting confident when weak and nervous when strong deliberately.
Ultimately how you look or feel at the table will play a small roll in your results.
The overwhelming majority of people can’t tell if you are weak or strong just by looking at you at the table.
Having a solid game play and understanding the mechanics of the game is 95%+ of the battle, even at the live poker table.
That said it doesn’t hurt to play it safe.
I mostly played online poker up until 2014 when I started playing a lot more live.
I wasn’t as comfortable in a casino at a table as I was at home on my computer, so I dressed up.
The whole ensemble: hoodie, scarf, shades, and glasses was made specially for all the read seeking live pros. (Also casinos are frigid and I needed attire just short of ski gear.)
Final Poker Face Thoughts
There is a time and a place to dress up like this.
If you are playing a poker tournament for a lot of money, especially with expert players that might pick something up on you physically, a little disguise can’t hurt.
If, however, you are playing in your friend’s home game with a bunch of guys that play for fun, you are probably better off in just a T-shirt.
They aren’t getting reads on you and you are probably less likely to be invited back if you take it too seriously and don’t make it fun for the other players.