Poker Face: What Does It Mean?

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 Author:Adrian Sterne

Poker FaceEveryone and their dog has heard the term “poker face” at least once in their lifetime. Pop culture has used the famous phrase so much that even Lady Gaga released a hit song with the same title.

Wildly famous songs aside, does anyone know the origin and the true meaning behind the phrase? Those of you who are fans of the popular card game have probably perfected your poker faces.

However, if you are a newbie and are intrigued by the topic, stay tuned.

This article will discuss the origin of this well-known concept and learn how to have and keep a poker face. By the end, you’ll be brimming with knowledge that will hopefully help you win your next game of poker. Let’s begin!


The origin of the expression “poker face” can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century. Naturally, it came from the game of poker, and it was first used in a textbook explaining the rules of the game. The term itself was utilized to describe the face of a player holding the cards.

Namely, since all players have a hand of cards, it’s in their best interests to keep their faces unreadable at all times. Naturally, the idiom soon found its place in the world of popular language and describes a person with an inscrutable facial expression.

What Does Poker Face Mean?

We could spend days discussing pop culture and making references to famous movies and songs, but that’s not what we’re here for. Our aim is to discuss the concept of poker face in the context of gambling and casinos. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

We have already established that having a poker face means being devoid of facial expressions during a poker game. But is this a good idea, and if yes, why? The answer is quite simple — players want to avoid giving away any clues on what their hand might be, regardless of how good or bad it really is, because this can help them win the game.

Having an impenetrable mask would be impossible. After all, we’re people, not robots. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t use our faces to our advantage. It’s perfectly natural for other players to make assumptions about the cards you have. If they happen to make the wrong one, thanks to your poker face, well, that’s not your fault. What’s more, if you are good at reading people, you’ll also be able to tell what those impressions are and use them to your advantage.

Poker Face Reveal

What many seem to forget is that people use body language all the time, whether they intend to or not. Relying on someone’s face as your only poker strategy would be wrong. Players may use their hands or have a tic that can lead you in the right direction as well. However, be patient and take your time observing others. Sometimes a facial expression is just that, with no hidden meaning behind it.

How to Have a Poker Face

Since you have a general idea of what poker face is, let’s see how we can get you one of those. We’ve already mentioned that your face and body language are your biggest tells. If you want to master the technique of having a winning poker face, you should start with research. Use the good old internet to your advantage and watch how the pros do it. There are plenty of WSOP videos you could use as a point of reference.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to practice. The first thing you should focus on is maintaining direct eye contact at all times. Not only will you appear more confident, but you’ll also deter other players from trying to guess your tactics, as firm eye contact can seem quite intimidating.

However, this doesn’t mean you should stare people down or blink excessively since these two actions can have the opposite effect. Also, it’s generally believed that people who have no trouble looking you straight in the eye have nothing to hide, which can prove to be a pretty helpful move if you ask us.

Believe it or not, a face has 43 muscles, all of which we use to make that perfect poker face

Even a minuscule movement can give away the true nature of your hand. Therefore, you should try to relax as much as possible. Think of it as meditating — take a deep breath, empty your mind, and watch as you gain complete control. The process will help you relax your jaw and mouth and prevent you from fidgeting too much.

How to Keep a Poker Face

Since you know how much effort goes into getting a poker face, let’s see what we should do to maintain one throughout the game. Many people aren’t aware of it, but their voice and the tone they use while speaking can be a huge tell. Sentence fillers such as “oh”, “um” and “like” will only showcase how nervous you are, so try to avoid using them as much as you can. Keep your communication to a minimum and use concise and clear language.

Sudden changes in intonation can give away your cards, too. Make sure you never sound too surprised, disappointed, or angry regardless of the situation. If you feel you can’t control the tone of your voice, use your body language instead to convey your meaning.

Kakegurui - Poker Face

Unfortunately or luckily (depends on how you look at it), some people just like to talk. If you are a chatterbox, use it to your advantage. Discussing various topics can make for a perfect diversion, as it will distract other players from your face and help you come out victorious.

Top 5 Poker Faces in the World

You have probably seen many poker pros with stone-cold stares and those who squirm in their chairs or just giggle a bit; however, they are still tough to read.

So, who has the best poker face? We have narrowed it down to five poker pros.

  • Mike “Timex” McDonald — McDonald may be famous for crushing the EPT Dortmund Main Event in 2008, but many people recognize him for his staredown. He has gotten much attention for it, and it has been an effective way to pressure his opponents.
  • Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu — Negreanu doesn’t have an intense staredown but has perfected the ability to lure weaker opponents into giving away information about their hands. Daniel’s approach is not as intimidating as McDonald’s but rather chatty, making other players let their guards down.
  • Phil “PokerBrat” Helmuth — This 14-WSOP bracelet owner is one of those players who often smile and squirm in their chair, leading other players and the audience into believing he is nervous. In fact, it is just a good tactic.
  • Phil Ivey — Here comes another poker pro with a deep, piercing stare and an unreadable face. His fierce stare has caused opponents to crumble many times and has helped him amass more than $40 million in live tournaments alone.
  • Ben Lamb — Lamb is another big name on the poker scene, recognizable for his deep, inquisitive stare. When looking at him playing, other players felt he could read them all and knew what everyone was up to.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to make and maintain the perfect poker face, you may be wondering how far it can take you. As with everything in poker, the answer is not straightforward. Yes, a poker face can help you win, but only if you combine it with other factors. You could have the most unreadable facial expressions in the world, but it all becomes futile if you have other tells.

Therefore, you should take heed of our advice and practice until you perfect your technique. Until then, good luck!

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Hi, I am the Chief Editor of, this site is dedicated to all thing poker. I have been working around the poker industry for the last 15 years, with different brands. The main purpose of this site is to keep you uptodate with the industry and offer you the best deals around.

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