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Arm Movements Give Away Poker Hands

Update Date: Sep 19, 2013 01:16 PM EDT

The next time you play poker, watch out for your opponent's arms because the way they move them might just reveal their cards.

Most people have heard of the term "poker face" or when a person tries to prevent their emotions from showing in their facial expressions. While experienced poker players learn to control their faces to prevent other players from figuring out how strong of a hand they have, new research reveals that players should look to the arms to gauge their opponents' cards.

The way players push their chips forward during bet making says a lot about what cards they're holding, according to researchers.

The study involved three experiments. In the first experiment, researchers videotaped professional poker players during a tournament. Afterwards, 78 college students were recruited 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 participants were broken into three groups for three different experiments.

In the first experiment, participants watched videos that showed just the faces and torsos of players in action. Researchers said that participants did worse than chance at guessing player confidence.

In the second experiment, the participants watched videos that showed just the arms and torsos of players in action. In this experiment, participants did much better than chance at guessing how confident the players were.

In the third experiment, the participants were asked to watch the same clips with just arms and torso showing. Participants were asked to rate how confident they felt the player seemed and how smoothly they moved their arms. The findings revealed that players with better hands were seen as more confident and moved their arms more smoothly than those with poor hands.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science

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