What is a “Poker Face”?

These days, when most people hear the phrase “poker face” they think of Lady Gaga’s famous pop song. But what is a poker face? The song itself gives a clue – it’s a facial expression which can’t easily be read. The point of a good poker face is to deny the other persons at the table an opportunity to gain any information from a player other than how many cards he has drawn and discarded, forcing them to rely on mathematics and luck instead of reading a player’s “tells” – key facial or physical expressions which reveal that their hand is either more powerful or weak than what they believe other people to have.

Developing a Good Poker Face

So how do you develop a strong poker face? It’s inherently hard to keep down your excitement when you pull up three of a kind, or even better, a straight. Likewise it’s hard to keep your cool when bluffing your way with a pair of twos. The secret, then is to maintain a calm and steady attitude, and to remain confident of victory regardless of what you draw. If you teach yourself to feel the same way about a good hand as a bad one, then your face and body will naturally follow, leaving your opponents guessing as to what is in your hand, and struggling to bet and play accordingly.

Practice & Emotion Control

To practice your poker face, sit in front of a mirror in a comfortable chair, and do your best to relax. Then pull out a deck of cards or a virtual poker machine and begin dealing hands. As each hand is dealt, look at your hand, and then your face. You will naturally notice your pulse quicken, your eyes tighten and your cheeks pull back into a slight smile when you get a good hand, and the exact opposite will occur when you get a bad one. A good way to train this way is to think pessimistically about good hands (“this isn’t good enough to win”) and optimistically about bad ones (“I bet no one else has anything either”).

With practice and effort, you can develop an impenetrable poker face, which will give you a significant advantage. You can further help your poker face with wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses, both of which help to obscure your facial expression. Calming music can also help, if you are permitted to listen to it quietly through headphones.