Study suggests poker 'arms' better tell than poker 'face'

September 19, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
An image of a person playing the poker varient, Texas Hold'em. Credit: Wikipedia.

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at Tufts University has found that college students are better able to gauge the confidence a poker player has in his or her hand watching their arm movements versus studying their face. In their paper published in the journal Psychological Science, the team describes three experiments they ran using volunteers and video clips that examined the confidence level of poker players.

Most everyone has heard of a "poker face"—where a person prevents their emotions from showing in their facial expression. Experienced poker players learn to control their faces to prevent other players from deducing how strong of a hand they are holding. But new research suggests, players may want to look a little lower to gain information from —to their arms as they are pushing their chips forward during bet making.

To find out if players give away how much confidence they have in their hand with their , the researchers videotaped professional poker players during a tournament. They then enlisted the assistance of 78 to watch 20 two second videos edited from the tapes to see if they could guess how the players were feeling about their hands. The researchers broke the volunteers into three groups and then ran three types of experiments based on the videos they'd made. The first had volunteers watching videos that showed just the faces and torsos of players in action. This experiment revealed that volunteers did worse than chance at guessing player confidence. In the second experiment, the volunteers watched videos that showed just the arms and torsos of players in action. This time, the volunteers did much better than chance at guessing how confident the players were (based on how the game turned out after the players revealed their cards). In the third experiment, the were asked to watch the same videos with just arms and torso showing and then to rate how confident they felt the player seemed and how smoothly they moved their arms. Those with better hands were deemed more confident and moved more smoothly than did those with poor hands.

The experiments show, the researchers contend, that despite years of work on their poker face, professional have not quashed obvious types of body language that can give away how confident they are with their hands. This suggests that simple clues such as the way a person moves their arms can offer up evidence of how confident a person is feeling.

Explore further: Study shows some male pheromones may cause other males to be more cooperative

More information: Quality of Professional Players' Poker Hands Is Perceived Accurately From Arm Motions, Psychological Science, Published online before print September 12, 2013, DOI: 10.1177/0956797613487384

Related Stories

Study shows some male pheromones may cause other males to be more cooperative

June 4, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Two researchers in Finland have together found that some male pheromones appear to cause an increase in cooperative behavior in other men. In their paper published in the journal PLUS ONE, the two describe ...

How players strike keys depends on how muscles are used for keystrokes that occur before and after

August 9, 2013
Researchers have long been aware of a phenomenon in speech called coarticulation, in which certain sounds are produced differently depending on the sounds that come before or after them. For example, though the letter n is ...

NY Internet poker deals aim to repay customers (Update)

July 31, 2012
(AP) — Settlement deals reached between federal prosecutors and three Internet poker companies call for more than a half billion dollars to be paid to the government, enabling U.S. poker players to recover more than ...

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Schizophrenia disrupts the brain's entire communication system, researchers say

October 17, 2017
Some 40 years since CT scans first revealed abnormalities in the brains of schizophrenia patients, international scientists say the disorder is a systemic disruption to the brain's entire communication system.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Sep 19, 2013
This paper misses a common know tell by novice players. When people have a really good hand they shake. It seems backwards but when people are expecting to win big the get nervous, not confident. ei, if the guy knocks over his chips ... fold.
not rated yet Sep 19, 2013
That tell, has saved me from getting into losing hands many times.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.