Poker has existed for centuries, evolving into different variations while keeping its core rules. One of the attributes needed to play poker successfully is a good “poker face.” This keeps your opponents from guessing what kind of hand you have in the game, and it’s great for players to know when to call the bluff of other players. Keeping a good poker face has to do with maintaining your facial and bodily composure, but mastering this is no easy feat.
The average game of poker has its thrills and suspense, and players are prone to making suggestions with even the mildest facial twitch. Your learned poker strategies will be ineffective if you can’t learn to maintain a good poker face throughout the game. The best poker players in world tournaments are regarded as masters because of how composed they are during games. Your opponent’s actions, movements, and facial appearances can tell you when to raise, fold, or call.
So, if you want to master the game of poker by maintaining a good poker face when playing, this is the article for you. We detail how you can maintain the ideal poker face and tips to improve and get the best out of your opponents from their poker faces.
How To Keep A Good Poker Face During A Poker Game
A poker game can accommodate up to seven players at a table, which could mean large pot prizes, especially with high-rollers. High-rollers are usually quite experienced at the game, knowing virtually all the strategies there are in the book. At games like these, your winning edge lies in the body language and facial composure of you and other players. The key is to keep your body and facial language as neutral as possible and to do so, you can follow the steps in the following headings.
Relax Your Face and Body
Before you even pick up the cards dealt by the dealer, relax your face and maintain a relaxed posture. Take a deep breath and maintain an upright position when sitting. The aim is to not look tense during the match, so you want to assume the most natural upright posture possible while keeping your facial muscles relaxed.
After picking up the cards dealt by the dealer, continue to remain relaxed and neutral regardless of the card combination you get. Remember to breathe and keep your emotions hidden. If you feel yourself tensing up, take a deep breath and assume your normal posture. Tension typically builds up in the jaw and mouth region, so you want to keep the muscles around there in check. Relax your jaw and create space between your back teeth. Do not smirk or smile unnecessarily, and keep yourself from grinding your teeth.
Maintain Eye Contact
If you find a player staring at you, ensure you maintain eye contact with them without reflecting any emotion on your face. Some players try to figure your facial language out, and if you’re avoiding stares, it means you have something to hide. If you can’t maintain eye-to-eye contact, stare at the bridge of the opponent’s nose till they avert their eyes. However, if you’re uncomfortable with people looking at you, get sunglasses. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from giving away anything, but you have to be sure they won’t reflect the hand you’ve been dealt.
Also, you can choose to look straight ahead, staring at something distant. Darting your eyes around are little clues expert players pick up to play you out of a game. However, if you’re staring at something distant, you might miss clues from other players’ facial and body language. So, be conscious of how you keep your eyes averted from others while taking note of their tells.
Do Not Forget To Blink
You might start to seem cold and unnatural between trying to control your face and body and maintaining eye contact. This can easily lead to a slip that compromises your ideal poker face. So, naturally, when you have the urge to blink, ensure to blink. Staring hard at your opponent can make you tense up and miss clues that you shouldn’t. Blink and move your head as naturally as possible without attracting attention. However, don’t go overboard with blinking, as it can be construed as a sign of nervousness.
Whether you’re feeling excited, nervous, or disappointed by your poker hand, fidgeting is one of the biggest tells that show these in poker. These tiny movements are well-known by expert players and can be used to play you out of the game. Hence, movements you want to avoid when playing a game include tugging at your shirt, biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, shaking your legs, tapping your fingers, and rubbing your face, amongst others.
If you can’t help it, keep one hand beneath the table and form a fist when possible. Squeeze gently to ease the tension. Be sure not to hold your cards in the other hand tightly as this will be a tell for other players.
Maintain A Neutral Voice
Your poker face goes beyond what other players can see in your face or body language. It is also what they hear in your voice. Some emotions are best conveyed by the tone of your voice, so you want to keep that in check by speaking in a balanced and even tone. Before you speak, you can clear your throat and take a deep breath to achieve an even or neutral tone. Speak as little as you can to avoid slipping with your emotions from your voice. It’s a game of poker. No one expects you to be a chatterbox, as other players will be focused on their cards.
One-word answers are permissible to the dealer, and you can even choose to nod or make hand gestures when asked questions. If you’re prone to talking and you don’t want to, get snacks or chew gum to keep your mouth busy.
How Do You Convince Players You’re Not Bluffing?
Bluffing is an action done by players in poker when they have a bad hand. The aim is to convince other players that they have the best hand and the others should fold so they can win the pot prize. Bluffing is almost necessary in a poker game, as virtually all players will have the conviction that they have a better hand than the next. Unless you have a Royal Flush, you should bluff and hold your ground until everyone lays down their cards.
If you want to bluff in a game of poker and make it convincing, the following are the tips you should know:
- Choose when to bluff: Bluffing is not something you should do too often, or your opponent will see you’re faking it. Only bluff when your opponent shows a sign of weakness from their body language to drive in the effect.
- Consider the stakes: If you aren’t experienced at bluffing, you want to use the technique only when the stakes aren’t high. Opponents are more likely to fold when stakes are lower, and you won’t lose much money if your bluff is called.
- Bluffing should be done pre-flop: If you notice other players have been having good hands while you have a weak one, start bluffing. Raise as much as your budget permits and note the other players’ reactions. This gives you an edge to see who will fold and help re-evaluate your poker strategy.
- Bluff one player at a time: Pick your opponents by their body language and bluff at the one who seems the weakest. This is the way to eliminate players in the game with a low chance of your bluff getting called.
What Are Some Tips To Improve Your Poker Face?
If you want to get better at maintaining a good poker face, the first step is to identify your own tells. Know how you react to tense situations, know what your face reveals when you’re excited or nervous, and be conscious of your body language in relation to these situations. Once you’ve identified and understood how you react to things, you can start working on how to keep yourself composed and neutral during a game. Some of the practices that’ll help you get better at improving your poker face include the following:
- Grounding techniques: There are different techniques to keep your face and body neutral and calm, including deep breaths, visualising serene environments, and drinking.
- Memorising your cards: An obvious tell of trouble in a poker game is the player looking repeatedly at their cards. Once you get your cards dealt and viewed, keep them in your head and focus on more relaxing things like drinking or background music to remain composed.
- Play with VIP bonuses: If you’re an ardent poker player, casinos will notice you and put you on VIP lists. You’ll get VIP bonuses that can be used at the poker tables, which will help you keep better composure because you won’t have much to lose. Click to learn more about VIP bonuses in casinos.
Schooling your face and body into neutrality when playing a poker game will take you far and often win you the pot prizes. A master of a good poker face is a master of the game, as it has worked for top players over the years. So, when next you go into a casino to play poker, be sure to have these tips at the back of your mind!