Call out a player’s hand by looking at his arms, studies say

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We all know about maintaining an expressionless face (or a poker face) to ace a winning hand at any poker tournament. But over the years, studies have suggested that a poker face may not be enough to conceal a winning hand. Researchers have stated that HAND & ARM movements when placing chips can betray the value of the cards a player is holding.

The bet-placing arm movements of players holding prospective winning hands are smoother than those with weak cards, and observers can make a proper judgement in a mere 2 seconds!

Researchers further state in the journal Psychological Science, that even though professional players may be able to control their face expressions, their arm movements might betray the quality of their game. So, a player’s next move is predictable from their actions while moving poker chips to place bets.

With three separate studies where men and women watched 20 two-second long video clips of poker pros and rated the hand they were holding based on views of the face or arms, results have shown that judgements based on players’ faces were poorer than random guesses. It suggests that not only were players able to conceal the quality of their hands, but also to create deceptive expressions.

But when the non-experts made judgements based on arm movements, the accuracy was better than chance. United States’s Tufts University Researches have shown that motor actions can sometimes betray intentions.

What is it about arm movement? It’s certainly not very clear. One theory is that the overall movement of arms and hands reflects confidence in having great hands. In case of poor hands, the very movements are affected by anxiety and unsurety. In a third study, the non-expert volunteers were asked to rate the players’ confidence and smoothness of arm movements. Results state that movements rated confident were also rated as smooth, and both were signifying winning hands.

Player confidence and surety along with smoothness instantly predicts chances of winning to be higher, which also suggests that the smoothness of movement can be a valid reason for analysing a poker hand-quality.

As the study was released, renowned player Phil Ivey has revealed that he used another technique of ‘reading’ poker cards to get ahead when he won £7.8million in Britain’s oldest casino.

Ivey, who vehemently denies the ‘reading’ technique to be a scam, stated that he’s legitimately used the technique of ‘edge sorting’ to identify the cards during a game. He was also able to exploit tiny flaws in the design of the cards – asymmetrical pattern differences on the rear which are the result of mistakes made during the manufacturing process.

Readers, what do you think about these observation techniques? Do you really believe in Hand & Arm movements beating the classic poker face as an analysation technique? Or is this just a mere theory?


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