Five Ways to Look More Confident at the Poker Table
To save face, you need confidence. You need to feel self-assured. You need a poker face. Here are our best tips for letting your own confidence shine through—or at least, help you fake it—so your competitors can’t read your hand from your face.
5. Know the rules. Seems obvious, but knowing the rules inside and out makes you confident, which keeps spasms of oh-great-now-what panic from flitting across your face. And we don’t mean just understanding the basics of “here’s when you can call” or “each person starts with five cards.” We mean knowing the different combinations of cards that can win, and how they rank in the hierarchy overall. We mean understanding the game well enough to make decisions in a flash so that you have time to glance at your competition and see if they’re reacting.
4. Learn to read body language. You may learn to look and feel confidant, but that doesn’t mean everyone else at the table has that down. Discreetly check out your opponents as they study their hands, and look for signs of elation, disappointment, or just plain nerves. Tics, twitching, widening eyes, drumming fingers or tapping legs can all give away emotion. So can avoiding eye contact, becoming more aggressive as the game goes on, or even becoming much quieter as the game goes on. Inexperienced players can grow more aggressive if they have bad hands (to make it look like they have good ones), or become quieter out of fear that any emotion could give away their good hand.
3. Stop fidgeting. As you’re learning to read the body language on others, turn your gaze back on yourself. Do you gnaw your nails when you’re nervous? Do you rub your forehead, narrow your eyes, drum your fingers, flick your cards, and bounce your leg? Practice being particularly self-aware next time you’re in a tense game, and pay attention to your habits. Noticing them is the first step in creating a tabula rasa of your features, which will keep other players from reading your nerves like a book.
2. Leave emotion at the door. Okay, so technically Rusty Ryan in Ocean’s 11 said it first. But he’s right. If you want to keep your hand a secret, look like a professional, and gain the respect of your fellow players, leave your emotions out of the game. This means being a gracious loser, shrugging it off no matter how much you just lost. It means being a gracious winner, too, accepting your winnings with a smile rather than a ‘haha, suckers!’ It means not letting stresses outside the game room influence how much you wager, the gambles you take, and your interaction with other players. It means knowing exactly how much you’re willing to bet and how much you’re willing to lose, so you aren’t blindsided when somebody else takes it all. When you stay collected, cool, and calm, it shows, and other players will respect you for it.
1. Ask a friend. Have a buddy, relative, or other acquaintance with a penchant for poker? Ask this person how he or she looks confident around the gaming table.
That’s our best advice. What about you? What’s the key to looking like you absolutely belong at your seat during a great game of poker? Tell us in the Comments section.