Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Poker Face – Reading and Being Read

Every poker player is quite familiar with the 'poker face' and the importance of it in the game. However, is reading your opponents poker face more important than the projection of your own poker face? The reading ability you acquire through years of playing poker and the aptitude to recognize different situations is only half the battle when it comes to playing an effective game of poker.

The other half is the projection of your Poker Face and how you can easily convince or manipulate your opponent into believing you. One of the best players with the greatest reading ability is undoubtedly Daniel Negreanu. I personally met Daniel at the WSOP in 2008 and was just amazed at his outgoing personality and his targeted reads at the poker table. A lot can be learned from Daniel and how he is able to project a convincing poker face to his opponents.

While many poker players will try to cover up their face with sunglasses, hoodies or hats, or even cover their face (ala Phil 'unabomber' Laak), many pro poker players have learned that revealing your poker face and using deceptive countermeasures are far more effective in misleading your opponents.

As a side note, Daniel Negreanu along with several other professional poker players have started a grass-roots movement to ban sunglasses and hats at major live poker tournaments.

Before you can work on your poker face, you need to learn more about the body language of the face and what tells are derived from it. Doyle Brunson once said,

"If I can see your eyes, I can see your hole cards."

Although this may scare a player into believing they need to cover their eyes with sunglasses or a hat to prevent a pro from learning the secrets of their poker hand, the reality is that, Doyle, or any experienced pro, does not need to see your eyes. That statement is merely a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the real tells people give away when they play poker.

The truth is, that the poker face is not just resigned to the face, it is more about body language as a whole and the behavior of a person in a certain situation. I always amaze my daughter with the fact I know when she is not telling me the truth, just as any parent is usually able to do, not because I can read her mind, rather I am familiar with her body language, mannerisms and behaviors.

Those are the basic keys to having the ability to read your opponent, and furthermore they are the keys to you projecting your poker face to lead your opponent into believing what you want them to believe. So remember, when playing poker, putting on your poker face is not about hiding your hand, rather it is about telling your opponent what you want him to believe you are holding!

An excellent book on the subject is from a magician and mentalist, known as The Mind Reader. His book is called The Poker Face and gives great tips and strategies for reading body language and detecting lies. It is available as an instant download at

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