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Have You Considered Your Poker Arm?

Mention the game of poker and everyone will at least be aware of the phrase poker face; whether they have ever played poker or not. But what about poker arm? If it’s new to you and you’re a regular face at a live poker table, then maybe you should read on.

A poker face is all about holding an expression that won’t give away what you have in your hand. The hand you are holding could be the best – or worst – that you’ve ever had. If your poker face is a good one, then your opponents won’t know the difference. However, according to research carried out at Tufts University in 2013, the way you place your chips on the table could give it all away.

Of course, most people play poker at an online poker room or preferred casino site, where body language and facial expressions don’t come into the game at all. Every player is in their own environment and safe in that anonymity of playing behind a computer screen. But go to a land-based casino or live poker tournament elsewhere, and things are a little different when you’re only the width of the table away from your opponent. It’s then that you might start thinking about your poker arm.

The researchers asked college students taking part in the study at Tufts to watch two-second video clips of the arms and hands of poker players from the World Series of Poker as they made bets. Their aim was to decide the quality of the hand the players were holding, and when watching the arms and hands, the students made accurate judgments about who had a good or bad hand.

However, when they watched videos only showing the player’s upper body or face, the students’ predictions of the poker-hand quality were much more random, more of a guess than a judgement. The researchers suggest therefore that even people with no knowledge of poker could decide the quality of a player’s hand by examining the player’s arm movements.

It seems that when players are bluffing about their hands, their arm movements become less fluid and more awkward, and this is something that is hard to mask and the poker arm shows the quality of the hand.

For a recreational poker player who does most of their gaming online at sites like 32red or similar, the poker arm isn’t ever going to be an issue, but perhaps the top players on the professional circuit have now started working on their body language so they don’t give anything away when they’re playing.

And if you’re ever in a live poker game, although you may not be able to do anything about disguising your own arm and hand gestures while bluffing, you can always use your new knowledge to check out who’s looking awkward at the table and whether that matches up with the bets they are making.

Photo Credits: Todd Klassy

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