The poker face is one of the first things people will ask you about if you tell them you play poker.
Not every one knows the ins and outs of the game, and not everyone is familiar with poker’s intricacies, but a poker face will always be reliable purely because it’s something which exists away from the tables as well as on them. It’s not just about poker strategy, despite what the name might suggest – what it comes down to is an ability to mask your true feelings about a situation or scenario, and who in their life has not been faced with that sort of situation at least once?
A good poker face can be crucial when making a big bluff and making sure you don’t give away the strength of your hand, or sitting emotionless after moving all in with pocket aces and masking your unbridled joy for long enough that an opponent can be convinced to pay you off.
Here are just a few examples from real life which you could easily use as poker practice, so the next time you find yourself in a sticky situation at the table you can approach the situation knowing you’re more prepared than you ever knew.
You’ve met someone on a dating app, got talking and decided to meet up for a couple of drinks. They seem really nice, and you’ve hit it off almost immediately before letting them choose a bar. You have a few drinks, then someone decides to order shots (you can’t remember who suggested it, but does it really matter?) and eventually it’s kicking out time.
That’s… an unexpected amount. Do numbers even go that high? A single shot of tequila costs how much? Oh god, your rent’s due tomorrow too.
Time to put that poker face into action.
We’ve all got that one friend who is capable of genius and stupidity in equal measure. They always seem capable of that fantastic idea which will make them a multimillionaire – they just need to work their way through all those other, much worse ideas first.
He seemed to be getting more sensible recently, too. He was beginning to come up with explanations for why his schemes would work, and… wait, was that an actual business plan?
All of this has lulled you into a false sense of security, though, and the next time you see your pal he’s binned off that eminently sensible idea in favour of something which, if you’re being generous, doesn’t even make sense. You’d convinced yourself he was on the straight and narrow, so this has caught you unawares. What’s more important than anything, though, is that you make sure he can’t see the shock and disdain in your face – have you got it in you?
You’ve gone out for a curry with some old friends and they’ve got a new special on the menu. There’s only one picture of a chilli next to it, which is good news for you – while you talk a good game, the truth is you’re much better with food that’s flavourful but not too overpowering. Maybe it was the labelling on the menu encouraging you to let your guard down, but it’s safe to say you weren’t expecting that immediate hit of what tastes like pure, undiluted chilli powder. You’ve got approximately six seconds before another member of the group turns in your direction, even less than that if you audibly cough, and you know you’re on thin ice after suggesting this curry house in the first place.
You know what it’s time to do.
Your football team is having a great season, but with one league game to go it’s crunch time. You’re up against your closest and fiercest rivals, and three points will mean you win the title. It’s going well – a teammate has put you 1-0 up and there are five minutes remaining when you slide in to block a shot from the opposition striker. You’ve made yourself big – that means arms and legs flailing – and the ball has taken a nick off your middle finger before spinning harmlessly back towards the goalkeeper.The opponents have seen what happened, your teammates have seen what happened (and one has even given you a knowing wink), but there’s no whistle from the referee… yet.
Can you ignore the pain, and the loud appeals of the other team, and give absolutely nothing away? If you answered yes, then you are the proud holder or a natural poker face.
If you started reading this article thinking you had a lot to learn about poker strategy and poker faces, you might have realised by now that you were wrong.
Everyone is born poker ready, even if they’ve never even played the game before – they just don’t know it yet.