Sunglasses. Hats. Goatees. Hoodies. For most people, rocking these styles is an attempt to look cool – but at the poker table, they're serious business. During a card game, a player's smallest gestures – widening his eyes, squinting, poking his tongue in his cheek, or plastering on a fake smile – can tip off opponents in a big way. And based on their use of these functional fashion statements, it's clear even pro players want a hand concealing their (not-always-successful) poker faces.
But do sunglasses, glasses, hats, hoodies, and beards really give players an advantage – or are they more for show than anything else? To get a better idea, we took a long, hard look at the use of "facial obstructions" among World Series of Poker winners during the past 45 years. What are the most popular ways for players to disguise their feelings during a game? And how have these oh-so-fashionable strategies changed over the years? Put on your sunglasses, zip up your hoodie, and read on for a unique look at this sometimes controversial subject.
Accessories Breakdown: What Poker Winners Wear
When tracking the use of tell-disguising fashion statements among World Series winners, three types emerge as the most popular: hats, facial hair, and glasses, each worn by 35% of poker champs. However, hot on their heels is the ultra-cool sunglasses option – favored by 33% of winners. By far the least common facial obstruction is the potentially sweat-inducing hoodie, which only 4% of World Series victors tend to wear.
But not everyone is a fan of allowing these types of facial obstructions at the poker table. You can't exactly criticize a player for the decision to wear untinted glasses (what if he's nearsighted?) or rock an awesome beard (what if he doesn't look good without one?). But some tell concealers certainly aren't necessary.
Some people believe that sunglasses should be banned both for their potential to let players cheat and the impact they have on a game's entertainment value (after all, many fans want to watch players' eyes for tells!). However, it's unlikely that those throwing shade at sunglasses-wearing poker players will get their wish anytime soon: The tournament even has a sponsor – Blue Shark Optics – serving as "the official poker eyewear of the World Series of Poker."
Do Most Poker Winners Obscure Their Faces?
Do these kinds of facial obstructions really work? Or are they just the poker player's equivalent to snuggling a security blanket? It's hard to say for sure. However, based on the stats, it looks like for some poker players, wearing sunglasses in a dimly lit card room or sweating in a warm hoodie or hat may pay off. Here's a surprise about World Series of Poker champs: More than 91% of winners have beards or wear hats, eyewear, or hoodies (or a combination of two or more types) at the table.
Even when we took facial hair out of the equation, our exclusive study shows that nearly 85% of champs don eyewear, hoodies, or hats. In other words, fewer than 1 in 10 WSoP winners come to the table without any sort of fashionable method for disguising their tells.
Is this type of behavior really on the up and up? According to the World Series of Poker official rules, while players "may not cover or conceal their facial identity," they can wear hoodies and sunglasses. However, officials reserve the right to ask that participants remove these accessories if they become distracting or make it hard for officials to identify the players. In other words, don't make it weird, bro – because they're watching for that.
46 Years of Poker Winners' Tell-Disguising Tactics
Fashion trends have changed a lot since 1970 – and so have the facial obstructions favored by World Series of Poker winners. The least popular cloak for tells – hoodies – didn't appear on the scene until 2010. During the '70s, no winner sported facial hair – and only two wore hats. Although hats have become more popular overall, the last time a WSoP winner wore one was 2010. Facial hair, rarely seen before the 1990s, has totally dominated the new millennium: Five of the last six WSoP champs were scruffy faced.
Eyeglasses were most common among poker champs in the '80s but were rarely worn in the 1990s and new millennium – maybe because contact lenses and vision correction surgery became more popular during this time. And sunglasses (only worn three times before 1987) were all the rage among winners between 1987 and 2007: Over half of the winners wore shades during this 20-year span.
Facial-Obstructing Techniques at the Poker Table
WSOP 2007, 2011, & 2014
When it comes to wearing shades or glasses, donning hats and hoodies, or growing facial hair, trends have shifted over the years – both among World Series of Poker champions and everyday Americans. Our study revealed some telling insights about poker champs' slick attempts to hide their feelings:
- Overall, the vast majority of WSoP champions obscure their faces in some way – over 91% sport facial hair, hats, glasses, sunglasses, hoodies, or a combination.
- Hats and glasses are the most common facial-obstruction techniques WSoP winners use (35% each), followed by sunglasses and facial hair (33% each). Hoodies are, by far, the least common; only 4% of winners have worn them.
- Trends in poker-player facial obstructions have changed a lot in the past 45 years. Eyeglasses have become less common, while facial hair has exploded in popularity. Hoodies were only worn twice, in 2010 and 2011. Hats and sunglasses are each relatively popular – but less so in the past five years.
It's not a coincidence that 85% of winners of the World Series of Poker had their face obstructed in some way. So what did we learn from all this? If you're going to enter the WSoP, it wouldn't hurt to bring a hat or sunglasses with you.
We scoured the internet to see if the winners of the World Series of Poker Main Event had facial hair, or wore sunglasses, glasses, a hat, or a hoodie in the final round of the competition.
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