Poker Face Meaning & Definition

Poker Face Meaning

A poker face has an idiomatic meaning and refers to a completely emotionless and indifferent facial expression. Remaining calm during betting rounds is a potent weapon that helps confuse opponents and seize the pot, even having weak cards. Showing a straight face is vital when bluffing or holding a strong hand as well.

We explain the definition of the given term and tell you how to cultivate a cool and composed demeanour in any given situation at the offline table.

Poker Face Meaning Explained

In most cases, this term pertains to a specific look on a person's face that conceals their emotions and makes them unreadable. Also, poker players resort to this special mimic trick during the game to mislead their rivals. While bluffing, we aim to convince our opponents that we hold a strong hand, forcing them to surrender and fold their cards without reaching a showdown.

Regardless of the variation, be it Texas Holdem, Omaha or Stud poker, the principles of reading and using tells remain relevant and universally applicable.

Important notice!
Important notice!

An impassive face is not the only tool for a poker player to avoid being "read." Even if you remain stoic, other tells like gestures, motions, words, actions, bet sizes, or timing can still reveal valuable information.

Anatomy of the Deadpan Look

Paul Ekman, an American psychologist and the prototype for Dr. Cal Lightman in "Lie to Me," highlights two ways to maintain external calm:

  • Modulating facial behaviour

The approach involves adjusting the intensity of the experienced emotion. For instance, express sadness instead of showing complete despair; or offer a slight smile in the corners of your mouth when you get feelings of excitement.

  • Falsifying emotions

In this case, a person feigns false emotions. Substitution is much more challenging than modulation as it demands inner strength and a cool head. Not everyone can convincingly portray calmness when turmoil is raging inside. Falsification includes simulation (substitution of emotions) and neutralisation (indifference, acting as if there are no emotions).

Both methods are relevant in live poker, but you can start with the first one.

The key to external composure is finding inner tranquillity. Nuts in poker undoubtedly trigger emotions, but controlling one's state makes it much easier to make a good poker face.

Bluff in poker represents more than predicting rivals' reactions and potential outcomes of the hand – it also requires being convincing. A calm facial expression is especially effective in deceiving adversaries and leading them astray.

How to Keep a Straight Face

In real life, it is hard to maintain an emotionless look for a long time. Nobody is able to sit for a few hours in a row showing no emotions. Players often communicate at the table, exchange some phrases, even smile at each other and put on "an impenetrable mask" only at the right moment.

Poker face meaning

Those who do not know how to keep cool – try to hide their emotions by covering their faces with their hands, wearing sunglasses, hoods, caps, or even helmets and masks.

Poker face meaning

Did you know?
Did you know?

Pros Mike MacDonald and Phil Ivey are famous for their ability to keep cool at the poker table. These guys’ facial tricks work successfully, and their adversaries simply can't believe their eyes at the showdown.

Some individuals don't resort to a straight face at all. Instead, they stick to the same wavelength throughout the entire game. For instance, they may be cheerful and smile regardless of their hand strength. Bluffing against such players can be as difficult as against those who maintain a cold and serious demeanour. The most noticeable emotions come from highly anxious participants and those who try but fail to keep their cool

Hints and tips from Nick Brancato

Professional player Nick Brancato (he starred in the ‘All In: The Poker Movie’) recommends developing a personal set of moves and literally "robotising" your behaviour at the table to become unreadable and unpredictable for opponents. Here are his main tips:

  • carefully plan how you look at your cards during the pre-flop stage and what actions should better accompany this process (how to cover cards – with a chip or cardholder, how to position your hands, leave one hand on the cards or both, etc.)
  • select a single motion for placing bets and organising your chips, and think of the speed of your gestures;
  • choose a specific position to sit at the table (lean on your elbows or sit back);
  • control how you place your hands and avoid touching your head and face unless necessary.
By the way
By the way

Frequently, "inborn poker face" is attributed to some celebrities who are known for their non-penetrative or simply unemotional facial features. For example, Chuck Norris' stone-cold countenance or Kristen Stewart, who weakly shows her emotions, are often cited as prime examples of a poker face.

Controlling Emotions at Online Tables

One of the main advantages and disadvantages of online poker is that players can’t see each other. The only exception is tables with webcams. In this situation, you can practice showing your passionless and expressionless face. In other cases, no need to keep it (this habit often betrays online regs in live games).

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As a rule, players try to keep cool in two cases – either when they are bluffing or have nuts. But it more often happens in the first case.Staying composed and managing overwhelming emotions is valuable for outsmarting adversaries and taking correct decisions. With a clear mind, making accurate choices becomes much easier. We believe that practice makes perfect.

FAQ

😐 What is a poker face?

This term refers to an impassive look on a player’s face, making it impossible to determine what they’re feeling at the moment.

🙈 What is another word for poker face?

As an alternative, people frequently use such terms as "straight face" or "deadpan look".

💪 How do you act the poker face?

Showing an emotionless look results from diligent work in controlling one's emotions. To seem indifferent, you shouldn’t suppress active facial movements that might reveal your true feelings and make minimum gestures.

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