Saturday, 5 February 2005

How to become poker-faced

I'm currently reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, and the chapter I'm on refers to Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman, pioneers in the field of reading faces. Ekman and his collaborator Wallace Friesen, drawing on the work of Tomkins, developed the Facial Action Coding System (that's a good link if you're reading the book too - it has photos of the various facial actions). The FACS in essence says that everything you're thinking, all your emotions, can be deciphered from reading and interpreting your facail expression. Fascinating stuff.

So here's a thought I had: at some level, we all have an innate ability to read facial expressions, although Gladwell does make the point that that ability can be clouded by a lot of extraneous information. Given how important reading facial expressions are in the burgeoning sport of poker (well, burgeoning in the US at least), and given that Botox seems to deaden facial expressions (see the bottom half of this discussion on Slate), shouldn't professional poker players get Botox in order to give themselves an advantage? I know they already develop 'poker faces', but why not just do the equivalent of 'roiding up in baseball and just paralyse the facial muscles? Anything that stops opponents from figuring out what you're thinking seems to be a way to enrich yourself in poker...

(Note: if you take up this suggestion and make any money playing poker, I'd appreciate a gratuity. If you take this suggestion and end up spending time looking like an emotionless robot without any monetary gain - at least you don't have wrinkles. If you take this suggestion and use it while playing online poker - you're an idiot. A wrinkleless youthful-looking idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.)




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