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Surprising Science

Forget About The Poker Face…Check Out Those Poker Arms

While professional players are schooled in the art of the stoic visage, new research indicates that their arm movements — specifically, the smoothness of them — may give away the quality of their hand.

What’s the Latest Development?

Before your next poker game, you might want to look up the following study published in this month’s Psychological Science: Researcher Michael Slepian and his team asked test subjects to watch very short video clips of players participating in the World Series of Poker. Each clip focused on one of three body areas: the face, the arms, or the player’s entire upper body. They then asked the participants to gauge the quality of the player’s hand based only on what they saw. The best results came from those videos that showed only the player’s arms.

What’s the Big Idea?

Not only were the participants less successful at guessing the strength of a player’s hand based on observing their face, they performed worse than chance would allow, which testifies to professional players’ skill in the art of deceptive facial expressions. However, the researchers figured that the smoothness of the arm movements may have betrayed the player’s confidence in their hand, and that was what influenced observers’ guesses. A second experiment, in which participants rated both perceived confidence and smooth motor skills, confirmed this: Higher ratings corresponded to stronger hands.

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Read it at Psychological Science


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