how to keep a poker face

Practicing so that you have a poker face and know how to keep a poker face is one of the poker playing essentials. Your poker face is your mask of deception! If you don't know how to keep a poker face, you will give away everything about your hand--and just about never win as a result. Even if you do have the winning hand, you'll win only the smallest of pots because everyone will fold!

Some people use their poker face more aggressively than others; that is, some players are more into bluffing and deception than other players who rely more on sheer calculation for their strategy and guide. But everybody needs to know how to keep a poker face throughout a game or tournie, so that they give away as little as possible about whether they have a good or a bad hand. A good poker face is a very important part of disguising your "tells".


Keeping a poker face is deception, it is suppression of all emotion, it is acting. In other words: it really does not come naturally for most people. People spontaneously show joy, fear, frustration, sadness, gladness, desire, hope, and other emotions on their face. Indeed, human beings are set apart from the rest of the life on the Earth with having very easily the most expressive faces and the most facial expressions out of anything else on the planet. Learning how to cover up those natural, spontaneous expressions calls forth another uniquely human ability: deliberate, conscious deception. When you play poker, honesty is NOT the best policy (except when it comes to playing by the rules and not cheating). As in warfare, success or failure in poker largely depends on who has the best intelligence, and who gives away the least about their movements (in this case, their cards and their intentions).

A poker face is indifferent at all times. If your hand is probably a winner, you just stare. If you are probably going to fold, you just stare. If you are bluffing, you just stare. If you are frustrated by a run of bad luck, you just stare. If you are feeling like you're sitting on top of the world, you just stare. You can show all the emotions you want between hands, but when those cards start gliding across the table the cold stare comes back.

The best way to learn how to keep a poker face is to practice in front of a mirror. This is what professional actors do to develop their craft. Your poker face has to not only be indifferent, it has to be "you", too. The more your poker face flows with your true personality, the more natural it will seem and the more difficult it will be for others to figure out your "tells". Some players come up with unique poker faces. For instance, they may smile at every flop--so that nobody ever knows if theirs is a smile of happiness or irony. Other players deliberately grow facial hair like a beard to cover up the minute tensing of their jaws if they determine that jaw-tensing is one of their personal "tells".

If you have wondered why so many Texas Holdem players wear sunglasses, it's not because they are imagining that they are Joe Cool the World Famous Riverboat Gambler. They know that they have expressive eyes--the eyes are the window to the soul, and when you play poker you got no soul! (If you do got soul, you got no money!) Some players don't wear sunglasses, because they have mastered the steely eye technique. They always have a look of intense concentration bordering on a menacing glare. They always look like they are making a complex calculation--even when their true thoughts are, "This hand is junk! I'm probably gonna have to fold!"

When you practice your poker face in front of a mirror, imagine yourself sitting at the table in various circumstances with various hands. Now imagine the dealer gives the flop, or you're turning the River, or you just got a pair of Aces as your starting hand. Look at how you react in the mirror and if you reveal anything on your face, practice controlling that urge to show expression. It might help if you shuffle a deck of cards and then deal them out to yourself to see how you react. You can even try putting on a game on TV just behind and to the side of the mirror so that you can watch and hear the TV and see yourself at the same time. How do you respond when your favorite player gets a pair of aces? Junk? The flop he's been hoping for? Learn to feign cold indifference no matter what.

Just imagine that you are a total professional, if that helps. Get that "I'm a pro" look. Maybe it helps you to dress in a jacket and tie to further this. People who are professionals at something usually don't get overly emotional about it. They have that look like "this is my job; it's going to be done right". In that light, just ask yourself: why ever get frustrated or angry or joyous at a loss or win, when it's all going to change? This can help you keep your look of "so what?"

So yes, you must have a poker face to be successful at all at Texas Holdem. Knowing how to keep a poker face is vital to your success--in fact, your poker survival

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