An often quoted Golden Rule of poker is to ‘play the man, not the odds’: to engineer victory not by the luck of better cards but by a detached and calculated imposition of your own character and will over that of the other players.
Vital to this, before beginning to try and ‘read’ the emotions of other players, is the ability to make one’s own emotions completely inscrutable; to prevent any hint of the cards you hold from appearing in your eyes, mannerisms, words or movements. If you can do this, the possibilities not just in poker, but in all forms of business, are endless.
Here are a few tips that might just help you begin to master that elusive ‘poker face’.
The higher the stakes of a poker game, the easier it is for your emotions to get to you.
Let this happen. Drink as much as possible during the game to get yourself excited and, if your nerves are really getting to you, cultivate a nervous tick. Personally, when stressed out by having to bluff, I like to turn my head at a right angle and lick my lips.
Don’t change your facial expression because of what’s in your hand
This is very difficult. Especially if you’ve got a King or an Ace or something. To refrain from giving yourself away when you think you have the best hand, hold your breath until your face has gone completely red. If necessary, emit a high pitch squeaking noise while doing so. Like a kettle.
The key to bluffing is convincing your opponents that you’re not bluffing
It may sound simple, but the easiest way to do this is to state loudly and repeatedly ‘I’m not bluffing’, while standing up and gyrating your hips. Once you’re ready, variations on a theme can be introduced such as ‘I’ve got better cards than you. I’ve got the best cards in the whole game’ or ‘Go on, go all in, I don’t care, because I’ve got better cards than you.’
Looking at your cards repeatedly during the ‘river’ is a clear sign that you’re checking whether you’ve got a good hand
Don’t do it. Remember what cards you have. The easiest way to do this is to associate a subtle movement with each card. For example, clicking your neck for a 2, blinking really fast for an 8, or opening your mouth as far as it will go for a King. Hip poker star Le Chiffre, from the hit poker film Casino Royale, actually bleeds out of his eyes whenever he has certain cards. He’s one of the best poker players in the world – So follow his lead! Although it does hurt loads.
And there you have it. Your evening should be spent red-faced, drunk, sweating, shouting and with your neck at a funny angle. Oh and don’t ever wear sunglasses or a hat.
By Duncan Morrison