A “poker face” is a facial expression that’s neutral or blank for strategy, hiding one’s true emotions or intentions and to make oneself hard to read.
The term originates from the context of a strategy while playing the actual game of poker, where players must maintain a neutral expression on their face to conceal the strength or weakness of their hand.
In general, a poker face is used to deceive or misdirect others and gain an advantage in a situation where emotions / intentions / standing might give away important information, actionable details.
For example, a poker face can be used in covert ops, business negotiations, political strategy, or even everyday interactions to keep one’s thoughts and feelings hidden from others.
Having a good poker face requires self-control and the ability to suppress emotions or reactions. It is often seen as a valuable skill in situations where emotions or intentions can impact outcomes or decisions.
And thus, the controlled ability to have a poker face at will and holding that expression for extended durations in stressful situations is a most useful skill for anything to do with dealing with people.
How to Have a Poker Face
Some people have the natural ability to make a poker face as their “resting face” without effort, but even for them and those that aren’t naturally inclined, it takes certain measures to manifest, maintain and keep.
To “activate” your poker face, you need to “deactivate” all muscles in your face, actively remembering to resist any muscle movement that can stimulate them from what’s happening around you.
To put simply, relax your face and keep it that way regardless of how tense the rest of your body may be.
Manifesting a poker face is the easy part, maintaining it during moments of high emotional / stressful situations is where it get’s difficult. This is because you’re resisting your body’s need to semi-involuntarily react proportionally to emotions you’re feeling by expressing them through body language, or more specifically your facial expressions.
That’s why a poker face can be such an advantage, it prevents your opponents / enemies from knowing what you’re thinking and feeling.
To master the poker face, practice controlling your facial expressions and body language. Pay attention to how your body reacts when you feel strong emotions, and practice keeping those reactions in check. Try to reduce / stop / suppress obvious involuntary signs of emotions on your face.
The thing about a poker face is that no matter how stern and stone cold it is, one small twitch or tic can ruin the whole facade and give you away.
So the next step is becoming a master of your own emotions by learning how to control your thoughts and reactions in high-pressure situations, also known as mental resilience / toughness. This means maintaining a sense of inner peace when chaos erupts around you – even if someone else is trying to provoke an emotional response from you in order to manipulate the situation or outcome.
Another way to maintain a poker face is by using mantras or visualizations. When faced with an emotionally charged situation, take a moment for yourself and focus on repeating a mantra or visualizing something calming. This can help prevent any unwanted reactions from showing on your face.
Alternately, it may be more effective (depending on your psychological makeup) to empty your head and heart, clearing out any thoughts and feelings until there’s nothing in there – then the face will follow.
Whatever the method, it’s important that your face isn’t too blank or void, as in so you don’t look clueless or zoned out. This can be achieved by slightly squinting your glabella (space between the eyebrows, above the nose) as if you’re thinking about something.
This approach can be activated on a moment’s notice for most people and with training, it can be utilized effectively under the most difficult of situations.
This tactic is deployed in similar fashion to the The ‘Deceiver’s Bite’ Method, which is a way to conceal signs of deception, fear and distress, as well as to suppress emotional responses and facial tics.
Poker Face Strategies
• The most important aspect of having a poker face is by keeping your facial expressions neutral. Be stoic and unbothered, not unhappy but not cheerful.
• Another key element is not fidgeting, which goes beyond the face. This means keeping your body visibly relaxed and hands still, not making unnecessary movements.
• One of the easiest ways to give away what you’re thinking is by smiling. This doesn’t mean that you have to look angry or unhappy, but simply that you should avoid smiling when you don’t mean it.
• The second most important aspect of having a poker face is maintaining eye contact. This is often the first and most vulnerable attack vector when an opponent looks for weaknesses.
• Another tell that people often give away is touching their face too much. This includes things like rubbing your nose or chin, scratching your cheek, or touching your hair.
• When you’re trying to maintain a poker face, speak steadily and evenly. This means not speaking too quickly or too slowly, and not letting your voice waver or become too high-pitched or low-pitched.
• While gestures can be helpful in conveying certain messages, they can also give away what you’re thinking if you use them too much. So use gestures sparingly and only when necessary, naturally.
A poker face can be very advantageous in a number of different settings beyond with a deck of cards.
For those in law enforcement or intelligence, a poker face can be literally lifesaving. By keeping your true emotions hidden, you’re able to maintain cover and prevent enemies from gaining an advantage.
In our daily lives, we can use it to keep others from knowing what we’re really thinking. As a result, we can avoid awkward situations and potential conflict.