Poker Face? Nope, Poker Players Shouldn't Have A Face At All
Poker face equals to 'no face', or is it? A poker player should be an anonymous persona for his opponents. Their mind should be as unpredictable as the Indian monsoons and as sharp as a blade. A person who has been getting an A+ in that part of moral science which talks about transparency, innocence, trustworthiness etc., can never pull this off.
The pattern for an online game is rather different. One doesn't get to see their opponent, so their pathways to reach a conclusion about their persona are limited. Whereas, in live games, that person is right in front of them.
One can comprehend his fervour by observing their face, body, and reflexes but correct predictions can't be made on the first go. In that case, players usually go by a standardised checklist they've made as per their experience.
If one can make out whether their opponent is an amateur or a pro, then the checklist becomes even more precise. New players don't know the twists in the tricks; they learn it with experience. When it comes to playing against a pro, one needs to pre-conceive the counter-attacks.
Inferences can be drawn by observing three things as mentioned above. Let get into those, one by one.
Going by the conventions of behavioural science, a nervous person bites their lips, looks here and there in quick succession and gulps their throat, etc. Their pupils contract time to time unknowingly as they get nervous.
So, the basic lookouts in the checklist should be these as mentioned. Usually, amateurs exhibit these due to inability to control emotions. This compromises their position on the felt.
But poker pros are a bit different. Being in the business for long, they know how their face should be as cold as stone. "No expressions please!"
The only thing that can compromise them is the dilation and contraction of pupils which isn't under their control. Thus, now you know why most players wear shades at casinos.
There are numerous gestures that can exhibit the nervousness or confidence in a player. There are just so many of these that it's not possible to enumerate all of those. But the major ones are:
- Sitting up straight
- Shaking legs
- Cracking knuckles
- Excessive blinking
- Rolling of eyeballs
- Fake smile
- Checking hole cards after the flop, etc.
- A wide smile
- Relaxed lips
- Suddenly sits up in the chair, becomes very attentive
- Some players try to act relaxed, looking off at a TV or a waitress, and then betting.
- Fluid speech, etc.
One should always remember, that experienced live players rarely exhibit such gestures in correspondence to the inference to be drawn. For instance, the opponent might be biting his lips, indicating that he has a weaker hand.
But as a pro, they might use this body language to bluff the other one with regard to the strength of their hand. It might so happen that, in a showdown, they come out with the best hand in the felt.
In such a case, one may lose a lot of money because they had been betting believing differently. Thus, always judge the opponent keeping in mind their experience at the felt.
Body language also varies with nationality. Few gestures are usually exhibited by a particular national identity. For instance, Russians don't believe in customary smiles. Usually, they smile only if there is a reason that's related to them.
On the other hand, Americans and Indians have the habit of smiling to lighten the vibes or to make people comfortable in their presence. Customary smiles are an important part of their culture.
Although it is not difficult to control such emotions, sometimes these subconsciously affect your body language.
Present mindset greatly influences betting styles. With weaker hands, one might bet tight but strong hands provoke the same individual to risk more.
Betting tells are very important for online players. Since, in an online game, the opponent plays behind the anonymity of the web, all one can observe is his betting pattern.
Some players bet in a customized conventional way. They tend to bluff their opponent into believing that they have lower odds in the game by betting tight. This is done to accumulate more money in the pot which is then swiped away by the bluffer.
Some players bet recklessly to establish that they are aggressive players and thus manipulate the opponent into unnecessarily make a strategy and counteract. This obviously hampers the concentration of the opponent at the felt.
The time taken to act can also reveal many untold tales about your opponent's thought process. But again, it must not be forgotten that online games are usually played in a relaxed setup.
Thus chances are high that your opponent might be multi-tasking during the game - reading a book or attending to his smartphone while the game is on.
Importance of Practice
Although this blog is all about poker face, the best of poker players don't put up a face at all, most of the times. Also, reading blogs won't help one perfect their observational skills and knowledge of behavioural science. Blogs just give one an idea about how to proceed but one learns only by experience.
Indulging in more and more gaming, visiting casinos more often - if not to play at all times, one can still sit and observe others and learn about changes body language. Playing more online poker can also help in understanding betting patterns.
After all, betting tells are important for both live and online poker. Watching live streams of underway poker tournaments will also help one to know about the body language influenced by different cultures around the globe.
One can also refer to books which educate about the body language and the inferences to be drawn from them.
Indeed, practice is the key and probably the only way to understand the true nature of this practice.