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Put on the Best Poker Face: Hiding Your Thoughts at the Table

Poker is a competitive game and like any other competition, there are emotions that rage through a player while playing poker. Being a poker player is not easy. You have to learn to mask the multitude of emotions — anger, pride and displeasure — that flow through you as you wager and discard cards. Controlling your emotions at a poker table is important as they can have two effects on you — drive your determination to win at the game, or prove detrimental to your game.

That is why poker players have to learn how to put on the best poker face while playing the game. They have to learn how to hide their thoughts at the table, so that other players cannot read and use them to their advantage. A poker player always has to come across as unfazed no matter what the circumstances are. By being like this, a poker player’s hand or situation becomes less obvious to other players. Also, by being able to control your emotions, you are in a better frame of mind to make the right decisions while playing the game.

When playing poker, even the smallest thing about your hand can cloud your judgment, making you make a decision based on your feelings rather than rationally. When a poker player gets frustrated, angry or upset, he or she tends to do things that they know are not such a good idea. According to some poker experts, a player governed by emotions tends to go on a tilt, playing a loose and aggressive game. This, the player believes, is the only way to win a pot. So, instead of waiting to play cards that are worth playing or attacking situations that are worth attacking, the player goes for everything. This way, the player becomes an easy book to read and opponents take advantage of it.

While on one hand, having a face that is difficult to read is important, on the other it is very difficult to be completely without emotions when you are passionate about something. Therefore, good poker players practice to keep a tight rein over their emotions, so that they cannot have a negative effect on the way they play. It goes without saying that controlling your emotions takes a lot of practice, but once you are able to control it, you will see that your game has improved tremendously.

It is important to first realize and accept that it is not possible to win each and every hand you play. If you set an unrealistic standard for yourself, you are bound to be disappointed and this will have a major impact on your self confidence. It is best to keep things in perspective and look at each hand independently. This way you will get a much better picture overall.

Always have a positive attitude. Do not let the losses get to you. If you lose a poker hand, just brush it off and move on to the next hand instead of dwelling on your losses. If you keep thinking about the previous hand, it will have an effect on your current hand. Do not waste your energy and thoughts on a hand that has already finished. Instead pay attention on the hand you are playing and observe other players.
Visualization is considered to be a good technique to get on with your game. If you are finding it difficult to let go of a particularly bad hand, visualize that you are sailing on a boat from rough waters into calm waters. Or, visualize that you are putting your anger and frustration into a bubble and letting it float away. This will help you overcome disappointments and move on with your game.

Remember, all the players on the table will be observing you. So, even the slightest feeling can tell a player a lot. You can try to avoid looking at other players. This can work in two ways. One, the other players will not be able to read your thoughts and feelings; second, they may think that you have a bad hand. However, most of the times smart poker players use opposite gestures and facial expressions to get other players confused. Most players with strong hands often act weak, while players with weak hands tend to act strong. So, you should be able to decipher which tell is strong and which one is weak. This is the only way to build up your stack of chips.

Also, players observe other players reactions when the flop is exposed by the dealer. When a player hit something good as the first 3 community cards are revealed, he can get excited. However, an astute poker player may turn around and show complete disinterest.
If you do not want to give up tells, you need to learn a few things. For instance, do not reach out for your chips until it is your time to place your wager. Also, avoid looking at the starting hole card until all the cards are dealt and the actual action begins. Keep a steady posture right through the game. This is important as some players tend to lean forward when they have a good hand in their excitement, while players with bad hands tend to slump just looking at their cards. Instead be relaxed and keep the same posture whether you have a strong or bad hand. Make sure you bet in the same manner to avoid other players from reading your hand.

For instance, when you are calling a bet, make sure that you place the correct number of chips without saying anything. Also, when you are raising, say it in a calm manner before placing your chips. Do not slam the chips one time and the next time be calm. This is a dead giveaway. Make sure that you do not get into who-blinks-first match with an opponent after placing your bet. Usually players with strong hands tend to do this and give away their hand. Instead look calm and keep looking at your cards with a blank expression.

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