Most poker players know the frustrations of an unfavourable hand all too well. Sometimes, the hand will have started promisingly but gone on to turn sour. While at other times, you simply give in to the desire to join the thrill of the game, despite a hand not promising much to begin. Now, you have to remain composed and fix on that all-important poker face.
If you’re dealt a bad hand don’t panic – poker is down to luck as well as skill, and you can’t expect the cards always to fall your way. What’s important is how you respond to an unattractive collection of cards.
So what’s the trick to mastering a poker face? And why is it important that you do?
Mastering your poker face
One aspect of poker is reading the players around you. By understanding how they feel about their cards and what kind of game they’re playing, you’ll secure yourself an advantage. Perfecting your poker face prevents your opponents from finding you predictable.
By foiling their attempts to gauge what kind of player you are, you could intimidate your opponents into folding before you. What’s more, even if you lose out this time around, your opponents won’t have learnt your reaction to a bad hand. Thus, you can continue to bluff with confidence.
To continue to exude confidence, despite an unlucky draw, you need to think about every behaviour likely to give you away. Here are four areas to focus on when practising a flawless poker face before your next game.
Your eyes reveal more than you might think – there’s a reason some poker players opt to wear sunglasses when sat in a dimly lit casino. However, shades aren’t necessary if you remember to:
- Maintain eye contact – new players tend to betray uncertainty by failing to meet the gaze of other players. If you’re worried about being thrown off by someone staring you down, look at the centre of their forehead instead.
- Slow eye movement – a lack of focus along with erratic eye movements is another sign of nerves.
- Control your blinking – occasionally, players blink excessively and narrow their eyes when unhappy. So mind you keep the blinkers open and ready to take in the scene around you.
It’s vital you don’t slouch or bow your head. Your opponents will be watching for small adjustments to your posture that signal your displeasure with the cards coming your way. Keep your shoulders back and chin up to carry on looking assertive and in control.
If you’re naturally a smiley person, don’t let that smile slip. At the same time, don’t go the other way and slap on a disingenuous smirk; you can bet others will see right through it.
Also, relax your jawline. Clenched teeth are noticeable by the way they alter the shape of your face. Don’t think you can hide them just by tightening your lips.
Your voice is possibly the hardest thing to control, but as others will be watching for changes in your tone, it’s wise to keep your strength of voice level. Have a glass of water to hand ready to clear your throat before speaking. Take your time and give a measured response when others around the table engage you in conversation.
Even with the best poker strategies and skills, your game will fall down if your poker face doesn’t cut it. Holding a neutral expression when things aren’t going to plan is tricky, so join games where the stakes are lower to practice.
Ultimately, bad hands are always going to materialise ready to throw you off. It’s simply the nature of the game. The trick is in how you react to these woeful card combinations, remaining externally unperturbed to mask your inner frustrations.