Should You Wear Sunglasses at the Poker Table?
There are many ways you can cover up certain shifts in behavior at the table. Wrapping a scarf around your neck or wearing a giant sweater is common, but the most popular is wearing sunglasses. One of the more common questions I get is, “Should I wear sunglasses at the table?” Let’s explore the pros and cons.
1. The eyes leak A LOT of information.
Blink rate can be correlated with hand strength, the order or someone's gaze direction can give off a ton of potentially useful information, subtle indications of surprise can be displayed via slight changes in the eyelids, indications of perplexion in the upper half of the face can suggest several pieces of valuable information. You are able to get a good gauge of a player’s focus, attention, and line of interest through watching the eyes. And this is just a fraction of the information that can POTENTIALLY be identified by paying attention to the eyes and muscles around them. While the amount of information that is leaked via the eyes is going to be player specific, sunglasses solve this problem by completely covering this area.
2. Picking up information in other players requires you to be gazing in their direction.
Sunglasses hide the fact that you’re looking at people. It will be a lot easier to conceal that you are looking at someone when you have sunglasses on. This is helpful because sometimes staring at someone can affect their behavior. When I first started playing, if someone stared at me I would get uncomfortable whether I had a good hand or bad hand. It was the process of being stared at that creates a shift in emotion or change in behavior, not card strength or an event that happened at the table. When you are wearing sunglasses you can observe people without their knowledge and at the same time you are going to reduce the risk of your observations changing your opponent’s behavior.
3. Sunglasses could make you more comfortable.
This is sort of theoretical, but I believe that sunglasses will make certain players more comfortable at the table. By creating a barrier between them and their opponents it may allow them to decrease some of the stress associated with the game and in a game that is foundationally based on decisions, a reduction in stress definitely can’t hurt.
1. False sense of security.
The reason my shirt says “Your sunglasses won’t protect you,” is that some players have the tendency to believe that when they put on their sunglasses they won’t give anything off. This is definitely not the case. Information can be found everywhere, so just because you have sunglasses on don’t think you are impenetrable. To add to that, I feel like while sunglasses do cut off a lot of information via the eyes they could potentially increase the amount of information displayed elsewhere due this false sense of comfort.
2. Information can be gained from connections.
There is valuable information that comes from emotional connections and conversation at the table. The player who talks a lot and asks a lot of questions in order to illicit information is going to be much less effective with sunglasses on. The eyes play a critical role in socialization and connections come from looking into each others eyes and recognizing the rich level of emotionality displayed around the eyes. When you have sunglasses on you are cutting off the communication of that information, and it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to express empathy when you are wearing sunglasses. If I were to wear sunglasses in all my videos I can guarantee that I would have much fewer followers. Whether you realize it or not a lot of emotion is displayed in the upper half of my face. It’s the movement in my face and my emotional displays that make a lot of the information I convey connect. Next time you are at the table and you find a player who is talkative and engaging and sort of that friendly person, look at their eyes. You are probably going to see a lot of movement and animation around them as well. The best professional example of this is probably Daniel Negreanu. He is very good at using his social skills to illicit information. You may be one of those players and by wearing sunglasses you are going to significantly reduce your ability to connect with others at the table.
3. Your stare is less effective.
I have had arguments about this but I believe your stare will be less effective with sunglasses on. Part of the reason a stare can be so intimidating is due the angle of the head and movement around the eyes. We are attracted to movement in the face, and while there are a lot of cultural considerations, the absence of that movement is weird and often uncomfortable. Staring at someone at the table can be a useful strategy at times. I strongly believe you are less likely to bluff a player who has a powerful stare and is actively applying it. By wearing sunglasses you may be diminishing the power of your stare.
4. Sunglasses can affect your vision.
This is the biggest game changer for me. Sunglasses can affect your vision by reducing the overall brightness of the situation and reducing your overall field of vision because of the frames. For obvious reasons my vision is very important at the table and I haven’t found a pair of glasses that I feel prevent that.
5. A person may be able to see your hole cards.
This is very rare but occasionally if the reflection and angles are just right, it is possible for a player to see your hole cards if you lift them up high enough. For any decent player I think it’s really hard for this event to actually occur but I actually tried it out in my office using a pair of Ray Bans and it was possible at certain angles so I thought I would bring it up.
Those are the pros and cons that I think are relevant from a behavioral perspective. When you are making the decision to wear them or not you are really going to have to take a look at your own game and figure out what is right for you.
Personally I don’t wear sunglasses when I play. I feel like they block my vision and I know for a fact that I get much less information out of talking to people with them on. However, if I found out I was giving off some piece of information that I couldn’t prevent, and there were observant players at the table I would put them on in a second. Ultimately it’s up to you.