Poker Face or the Smiling Poker Face?

Poker players meet a lot of people at tournaments or while playing cash games at live casinos. These people are 80% from the poker industry and 20% from other walks of life. The people who are new to poker usually have two key questions: “Do you bluff ”? and “Do you have a poker face”?

“Do you bluff ”? Bluffing! Yes! It is a key part of the game for professional poker players. Amateur players are generally confused about bluffing decisions. In a game like poker, it is always advisable to weave up the gameplay by appropriately blending in all types of deception: slowplays, traps, bluffs, semi-bluffs and semi-demi-bluffs.

Now let’s talk about the poker face which every poker player likes to boast of. Here are a few important questions that come to one’s mind: what is a poker face?, why does a poker player have one and how is it best used?

To be successful in poker, the primary skill that every poker player must learn, is to masque his on-the-spot reaction to good and bad hands. Suppose, a player with As Ks on a board of Qs Js 2c 6d suddenly sees the 10s appear on the river. In this case, he is holding a royal flush, but he must not forsake that joy.  He should rather prevent his opponents from recognizing his expression about the true value of his hand, and taking advantage of that revealed information. On the contrary, if instead of hitting 10s on the river, 2d opens up on the board, then that player would be indeed a down-and-out player. In this situation, the player’s reaction would be of a sad face displayed by frowning and shaking his head. This would be a clear indication to others of his failure, and they will bet into him, knowing that he/she would surely fold.

Professional poker players who understand this concept adopt a poker face – an expression that conveys neither joy nor sorrow regardless of what hand you hold. This poker face is well-known among poker pros, and such players hardly exhibit a reaction to communicate their true joy or sorrow. Hence, poker face is the very first thing to learn – the same expression on your face no matter what is your true reaction to your hand.
In the theory of poker face, the one doubt that commonly arises is “what is the same expression that one should always portray”. For instance, your expression should be non-responsive like most poker players or you should adopt some other typical expression at the table. Some professional players adopt the somber, grim look of a person engaged in a serious endeavor. They look stern and somber, intimidating and off-putting because it gives them a competitive advantage at their table to be seen as a winning player. You may think that this expression projects a winning table image. But, have you ever visited a typical poker room and noticed men and women with the expression- “Don’t mess with me” or “I’m a tough poker player” with their scowl look? Most people think of this expression also as the best expression to have. These players want to project to the rest of the poker world, that they are tough, serious, no-nonsense players. But, such standard expressions are prominently seen in the winning players in the field of running, swimming, boxing, etc.

Poker is different. In this world, you are not making money from the toughest players in the room as these players are most likely to take your money. Your profits come from the worst players – the new, the inexperienced and amateurs who play poker not to make money but as a hobby. Further, it is true that you are playing your best game on the table but at the same time it is also important to select your opponents. Whoever you choose to play with- the tough veterans or the novice players- you should be able to lure them into your game. In simple words, if you want them to play with you, then a serious, no-nonsense, stern, somber expression on your face is strictly a NO-NO. As a poker player, you need to make your opponents feel welcome and relaxed sitting next to you. So, SMILE, it’s good for you! This makes them think that you’re there just like them, i.e., to play, gamble and meet interesting people.

You will never want your opponents to be intimidated by your serious expression, or taking no chances, and folding all but their monster hands. Thus, it is important to master your poker face. Once you are at the table, you should always carry a smile, make other players feel comfortable and continue exhibiting the behavior of someone who is playing to amuse himself, not to make money. You need to look playful instead of serious, clueless or skillful so that all types of players, expert or amateur, enjoy playing with you even if they are losing the money.

Remember your poker face should be a smile. After all, wouldn’t you want to be a player that communicates warmth and friendship with whom the fish won’t be intimidated?


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