Online poker is great but sometimes you just need to take your game to the next level. You want to play on the stage in front of people; you want to get the chance to win big in a casino resort’s poker room or, perhaps, show off your skills in the poker room of a cruise ship.
Live poker is exciting, and can potentially be lucrative. But, as an veteran poker player will tell you, when you are playing a live poker game, keeping an unreadable poker face is crucial. Beginners often do not fully consider what it means to have a poker face – and the fact that they need to maintain it for the duration of the session. Beginners often consider game play and hands, but they don’t necessarily practice their body language or their facial expressions. From personal experience, I can tell you that many a hand can be won or lost on the strength of your poker face. Here’s how to keep yours strong even when you feel nervous and excited.
1. Don’t Think About Your Stresses
If you are dwelling on the bills you have to pay or your poor performance at work, it will be reflected in your posture and on your face, even if you don’t realize it, and it will betray the fact that you are nervous and unsure. Try to relax yourself before a game. Put other problems aside and focus on enjoying the game.
It’s best to try and put some distance between yourself and your other worries. If you are too concerned about other aspects of your life it will not only show on your face, but it will also make it more difficult to focus on your game.
2. Control Your Eyes
Even the smallest eye movements can potentially give you away. Unfortunately, many eye movements are completely involuntary, but they give your opponents a clear view of what you are really thinking. Before a session, practice keeping your eyes level, not flickering. Practice not looking from side to side without good reason during the game. On the other hand, you also shouldn’t stare fixedly into space or at an opponent – this never gives the impression that you are neutral, but instead that you are crazy.
It used to be the case that many players would wear sunglasses while playing live poker, as this helps keep eyes hidden and gives a more mysterious appearance. Nowadays, though, you’re better off just practicing away from the table, as wearing sunglasses to the table is often a dead giveaway that you’re a newbie.
3. Don’t Twitch
No, we’re not talking about Twitch, the online streaming platform. There are separate issues with streaming poker on Twitch.
We’re talking about actually making physical movements.
Your eyes are not the only body parts that can give you away. Your other body movements, as Joe Navarro, Mike Caro, and Zach Elwood would probably attest, are quite telling. Tapping your feet, scratching your head, biting your nails, picking your skin… all those sorts of behaviors typically belong to players who don’t tend to fare so well when playing live poker.
4. Have a Steady Voice
Even if you manage to keep your eyes and body still, and not reveal anything, your voice might still be an Achilles Heel at the poker table.
How so? Well, frankly, if you’re unable to keep the tone of your voice steady and neutral when you place your bets or avoid making changes in the tone of your voice, your opponents will take notice.
The best advice would be to try and keep calm and, especially if you’re nervous, speak only when needed in a steady tone of voice.
Aside from those four tips, we’re sure you could think of some other ones that’ll help you improve your poker face when playing live poker. Let us know some of them in the comments below.