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How to Make & Keep a Poker Face

Learn how to make and keep a poker face from poker champion Nick "Nicky Numbers" Brancato in this Howcast video.


Hey, I'm Nicky Numbers, Professional Poker Player, and now I'm going to help you learn how to make and keep a good poker face.

Now, a poker face is kind of a general term for stoic behavior at the table giving your opponents the minimal amount of behavioral information possible.

The idea is that your behaviors may give away something about your holdings. In poker we call that a "tell".

Well, you want to keep your opponents from potentially getting tells off you. And the way you accomplish that is by minimizing the amount of behavioral information you're giving off.

The best way to do that is to have a routine. So you're dealt two cards. Cards come to you. Your pre-flop routine involves when you look at your cards. Do you look at them right away? Or do you wait until your turn? First you have to decide that.

Then, how do you protect your cards? Do you hold them the entire hand? Or do you cap them? If you cap them, do you use chip or do you use a card capper? If you use a chip, do you just use one chip or do you use more than one?

No matter what you're doing, you want to be consistent.

So for example. A good pre-flop routine might be hold my cards next to my chest when I'm dealt them. Watch the action. Wait until it's my turn, then look down at my cards using both hands, revealing the cards the least. Then if I'm going to fold, fold. Otherwise if I look down and I'm going to continue in the hand, then I cap my cards and I state my action. Call. Then I put in the call chips. Or raise, and then I say the amount I want to make it. Either way I'm getting dealt my cards, I'm holding them there, I'm not looking until it's my turn, then I'm capping them, then I'm acting.

And when you make a bet, it's important that you do it in the same way. So if you're betting sloppy versus if you're betting neat, that makes a very big difference. You want to be consistent. You should literally be able to write down your routines at the table.

Your pre-flop routine when you first get dealt your cards, the actions that you take, and the order in which you take them,

You want to be as robotic as possible so that you really are giving away the minimum amount of behavioral information.

Now, once the cards come out and you're post-flop, you also want to have a routine. For example, how you sit. Do you sit with your hands like this, folded? Do you sit like this? Do you sit behind your chips, in front of your chips? Where are your arms? At any point in hand after you've acted, you want to have a very comfortable routine. You want to be sitting in a way that you can maintain because potentially your opponents may be looking at you for long periods of time while they're trying to make a decision and you want to be giving away the minimum amount while they're doing that. So putting a hand on your head, holding your head. You know, sitting in some easy replicable position consistently, whatever it may be.

The key is that you have one and that you're acting consistently.

If you act the same way pre-flop when you're being dealt cards and then the same way after you act when you're choosing to continue in the hand, and then you also act the same way post-flop, on the flop, turn and river, you're going to be giving away the minimum amount of non-poker information to your opponents. And that's exactly what you want to be doing to make and keep a poker face throughout the entire hand.

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