Poker is a game of wit, chance, and strategy all at the same time. Did you know that it is also a game that heavily involves psychology? If your childhood was anything like ours, you probably remember watching old overly-dramatic western shows on the television. Most likely, the main character was a lean, cooler-than-you cowboy. Like most cowboys on our television screens, he probably liked to spend his spare time in a bar playing some good ol’ fashioned card games (you know, when he wasn’t out and about gunning down the bad guys). It isn’t hard to envision him now: a cool-gazed cowboy tipped back in a wooden chair with a cigar in one hand and playing cards in the other. A small child can never forget the steely face of his or her favorite Western character; in fact, you probably remember standing in front of a mirror trying to look “just like” an even-keeled cowboy. We don’t want to point any fingers, but we’d be willing to bet that some of you poker players out there still do the same thing. If you like poker and you’ve always wanted to have the perfect “cowboy” poker face, we have a few tips for you. Take It Easy News flash: poker is supposed to be fun. Don’t let yourself get all worked up and anxious about winning or losing, no matter how much money is on the table. First of all, playing poker just for the win is bad form; nobody likes a player who is consistently a sore loser. Besides, playing solely for wins is a good way to develop an unhealthy addiction to gambling, and addiction is never cool. When you are truly enjoying a game of poker and portraying a calm aura with your face, body posture, and muscle tension, you are far less likely to give away key information to your game play opponents. Clear your brain of any unwanted, stressful thoughts and focus on having a good time. Relax your facial muscles at all times, and maintain a consistent level of calm and cool. Your next poker match is the perfect time to practice your “cowboy slouch”. Make yourself comfortable in your chair and enjoy the game as it unfolds. Be the Tough Guy Cowboys are known for their somewhat emotionless appearance. A steady jawline and unwavering gaze never lost anyone a game of poker. As you look at your opponents don’t be afraid to make eye contact. Let your eyes and body movements exude confidence, communicating the “I-know-what-I’m-doing-chumps” vibe. A cowboy can be gentlemanly and remain tough at the same time. That is the precise balance you are aiming for when you sit down to play a game of poker. Remember, everything goes back to an overall demeanor of relaxation. If you can loosen up and truly have a good time, you will not have to worry about appearing anxious. Get your “don’t-mess-with-me” gaze perfected and take a few deep breaths as you enjoy your favorite card game. Be Normal Have you ever seen someone who is camera shy interact with a camera? It can be somewhat comical to see them go from normal to “frozen” in an instant. As soon as they spot the camera in front of them, they tense up and seemingly lose the ability to perform some of the most common human functions: smiling and conversing normally. A person who has difficulty being normal during a poker game can be roughly compared to a person who is camera shy - poker shy, if you will. We’ve already discussed the importance of appearing normal by remaining consistent with your facial expressions; now it’s time to discuss the importance of normal conversation. So how do you talk during a poker match without giving away what is on your mind? An easy solution for beginners is to simply stop talking so much! The less you communicate verbally, the more you can focus on portraying that unbreakable “gleam” through your eyes and other forms of nonverbal communication. As you become more confident with the gameplay, try conversing without raising or lowering the tone of your voice dramatically. You should also be careful to maintain a consistent speed while talking. A person who talks too fast appears anxious and may be perceived to be lying. Avoid Nervous Habits When someone is nervous, it is usually easy to pick up on it. How is it possible for us as human beings to know when someone else (even a complete stranger) is feeling nervous or upset? The answer: we possess the incredible power of reading other peoples’ nonverbal communication. For instance, if your friend is slouched in his or her chair, you may assume he or she is relaxed and content. If your friend is sitting rigidly in his or her chair like a totem pole, you may quickly conclude that he or she is stressed, worried, or frightened. Because it is so easy for human beings to pick up on each other’s nonverbal communication and read into emotion, it is vital that you avoid nervous habits such as biting your nails, wiggling your foot back and forth, biting your lip, licking your lips, knitting your eyebrows together, picking at your nails, blinking quickly, squirming, sitting rigidly, etc. If you are concerned about how you are expressing yourself, you may want to look into some other resources about how to portray yourself in the way you want to be seen. There are many books available at your local bookstore or library that may help you with the subject, and there are definitely a plethora of other resources on the information highway of the Internet. Be a Good Winner (Or Loser) There are few things tackier than an overly prideful winner or an overly whiny loser. Let your loss be a loss and your win be a win. There is no need for a barrage of extra flourishes, words, insults, exclamations, or any other kind of unnecessary action after a game has ended. Winners ought to gracefully acknowledge their achievement and perhaps even compliment the opposing players on their gameplay techniques. Losers ought to have a good attitude and remember that a game is simply that - a game. There is no need for a temper tantrum at the card table. Tantrums only make your loss more humiliating and often invoke the disrespect of your colleagues. The next time you sit down to play a nice game of poker with your buddies, try practicing some of the techniques discussed here today. A good poker face can make a world of difference in your gameplay. The practice is definitely worth the time and effort needed. If nothing else, the next time you play try to imagine that you are a calm, collected, dashingly handsome cowboy (or girl) in a smoky bar. We can only assume that it works.