Understanding and analysing your opponents is a crucial part of winning in poker. Your opponents know that and will be closely watching your face and body language to try and guess your hand.
A simple tic, small expression or unconscious movement can betray your hand, letting others at the table device how to beat you.
Having a good poker face prevents your opponents from taking advantage of you and helps you make a good bluff, when you need to. So how to keep a poker face?
How To Improve My Poker Game
Whether you are new to poker or just want to improve your game, here are helpful tips on how to keep a poker face.
1. Maintain Internal and External Awareness
Most people don’t even realise they have a tell. It happens unconsciously in reaction to either a good or a bad hand.
The first step to maintaining a poker face is improving your internal and external awareness. Don’t wait until you are seated at the poker table to practice this; do it as you go through your normal day.
Take note of external triggers such as someone telling you good news or a co-worker putting you down. Now, note the feeling it triggers inside you and the physical action that follows.
Do your eyes widen? Do your fingers start twitching? Do you wrinkle your brow?
Once you are aware of the trigger and the reactions, practice cutting out the last part. You can’t stop how you feel towards a situation but you can stop your body from displaying that emotion.
Once you identify the feeling inside you, try to compose yourself and not show any external reaction. This will be difficult and will require lots of practice.
2. Stay Silent
Talking only gives your opponent an additional opportunity to read you. Unless you are really good at maintaining even speech no matter your emotions, keeping quiet is the best option.
Good poker players can note changes in inflection, volume and pitch when you talk. After some time, someone will identify a tell associated with a winning or losing hand.
3. Avoid Eye Contact
This is the same deal as staying silent. It’s hard to keep your face devoid of any expression when you are looking directly at someone especially if you are an amateur.
It’s easy to get nervous or overly confident depending on the hand you have.
Find a point on the table to fix your eyes and keep them there no matter what kind of hand you have. Of course, as you get better at keeping a poker face, you can look directly at other players to try and read their emotions.
4. Relax and Have Fun
Your reactions will be more acute and easily noticeable if you are anxious about losing the game. When you are playing, forget the possible outcome and have fun.
Remember that loosing is part of poker and it’s going to happen many times. You are also going to win a lot as you get better. Don’t fret about the outcome, it’ll help you keep a poker face.
Other Tips to Improve Your Poker Game
- Practice, a lot. You can spend all your time reading materials, watching videos and looking at other people play poker. But you won’t start improving your game until you start playing. You won’t win big at the start, but your mistakes will teach you a lot and make you a better player. As you practice, you make fewer mistakes and win more. Buy your own poker chips set and play at home, with your friends, family, etc.
- Review your plays. After a game, run through the play in your mind to find areas you could have done better and opportunities you may have missed. Over time, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Keep learning. While practice is essential, don’t forget the value of learning. Video courses, book and online resources (like this article) can greatly improve your game.
- Get a coach. If you are serious about becoming a pro, a coach will take you much further than a book or video course. A personal coach can spot your weaknesses and help you improve them while also enhancing your strengths. The downside of this option is the high cost.