What to wear when playing poker (tells) is far more crucial than most people think. Outfits can be very revealing—and no, we’re not talking about revealing in terms of hip-hugging.

We’re talking about revealing in terms of tells – not mis-clicking the call button in an 888poker tournament!

Your clothes might be giving away more information to other players than you know.

Tells – What to Wear When Playing Poker

Poker tells are not like the movies. Don’t look out for eccentric quirks or nervous ticks. These can vary widely from person to person. Cracking jokes can represent one player’s strength and another player’s bluff.

Avoid overanalysing body language (it is likely unreliable) or overstressing your movements (it will not likely change your opponents' behaviour or actions anyway).

You don't need a poker face to play poker.

However, what you should focus on is an overall read of a person:

  • Do they look like they have a big ego and something to prove? If yes, then they’re probably more likely to bluff (an excellent poker term).
  • Do they seem skittish and straightforward? It’s less likely they are bluffing.
General Tells – What to Wear When Playing Poker
General Tells – What to Wear When Playing Poker

Instead of scanning for hand tremors and nervous gulps, which may be inaccurate and confusing, you want to get inside someone’s head.

  • What motivates them?
  • Why are they here today?
  • Are they rich and can afford to gamble, or are they ‘money-scared’ and penny-pinching?

Whether someone is a Jeff Bezos billionaire or down to their last dollar greatly influences their play. This fact is more valid than any glimmer of the eye or twiddle of the thumb.

The more reliable information comes from attitude.

Real tells come from understanding a player’s psyche. So, where better to start than what they’re wearing?

Don’t take what to wear when playing poker lightly – like it’s a strip poker game.

Different outfits can change gameplay and strategy.

Essential Poker Clothing Aesthetics

There are two primary weekday aesthetics to watch out for in poker: the ‘businessman’ and the' grinder.’ Most poker players on an average Tuesday outing are men who either (A) just got off work or (B) play poker professionally.

What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Essentials
What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Essentials

Note: You’ll also encounter quite a few retirees, but they tend to play fewer hands (poker combos) and with less variance. You shouldn’t be overly concerned about this type of player.

The businessman, the grinder, and the occasional ‘punter’ will have a much more significant impact on your bottom line.

The businessmen (and sometimes, but rarely, women) come as you might expect—button-down shirts, khaki dress pants, leather shoes, and the like. Snazzy watches, wedding rings.

A polished look without being too flashy connotes someone who is usually reasonable and mature.

These gainfully employed people are more likely than a boozy 21-year-old to be able to make a big fold or be bluffed. Successful professionals pride themselves on their ability to make good decisions.

Classy but modestly-dressed individuals want to do their best to think logically as if they were laying a major WPT Poker Tour event.

This methodical-type player is different than the guy decked-out in Gucci and gaudy gold necklaces who is predictably going to act wilder and brazen.

What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Wild, Brazen
What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Wild, Brazen

Popular poker vlogger Mariano said in one of his YouTube videos that none of his ace-high calls had worked. Of course not—people are less likely to bluff a 25-year-old!

Since he looks like a confident young kid, people probably didn’t want to try to bluff him.

His ace-high hero calls weren't working. Not because he had missed an opportunity, but because people didn't try to bluff him as frequently as they would other people.

People would be much more inclined to bluff him if he were a 95-year-old elderly woman, in which case the ace-high hero calls would be more profitable.

But because Mariano was dressed like a 20-something ready to get involved, most people wouldn’t want to risk bluffing the kid hungry to be a hero.

The Casual Attire of the Grinder!

Speaking of the young guns, you’ve got to know the roughly uniform look of a professional poker player—a.k.a. ‘THE GRINDER.’ These guys come to the casino every day like it’s their office, so they need to dress comfortably.

What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Grinder
What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Grinder

No one wants to play poker for six, eight, or twelve hours wearing skinny jeans or tight dress pants. That’s why they usually be wear comfortable clothes (think: hoodie and sweatpants).

Unlike business professionals, they don’t have somewhere else to be, so they dress for the relevant occasion: THE CASINO.

They dress in loungewear and relaxed shoes—sneakers, sandals, anything but tight footwear.

They’re planning on playing for long periods and dress accordingly.

What to Wear When Playing Poker – More than Clothing!

But it’s not just about clothes—what’s important is someone’s familiarity at the table.

  • Do they know how to shuffle chips?
  • Do they shuffle chips easily and effortlessly?
  • Did they bring their own chips? How much?!
​  What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - More than Clothing​
​  What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - More than Clothing​

The pros usually carry a small pouch with high-denomination chips for fast reloads. If you see someone pull out a stack of $100 chips, they’re almost always a grinder playing there daily.

But if someone pulls out a stack of $100 bills, they’re more likely to be a recreational player with cash on the hip. It’s the same monetary value but a completely different archetype.

Bonus: Pros carry their own chips, so they need more than just a wallet—a backpack is nearly a dead giveaway! If you want a solid and reliable tell that someone plays poker for a living, look for a backpack or a coin purse-type pouch.

What to Wear When Playing Poker – Headphones and Glasses

Another major tell in clothing is headphones—you will never see a first timer wearing headphones or dark sunglasses. Why? The environment is overwhelming when you’re new at poker—especially live poker at a casino. There is heavy stimulation with people and with cards. 

There’s a lot to keep track of—cocktail servers, chip ruffles, waitlist PSAs blasting like a radio station. It’s too much for a fresh beginner to process everything, plus rock out to their favourite Blink-182 song.

Only experienced players get bored enough to require dark glasses or headphones—and if someone reaches down for their headphones immediately, beware: You’ve just encountered a ‘reg.’ (‘Reg’ is short for regular, like a grinder).

​  What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Headphones and Glasses
 What to Wear When Playing Poker (Tells) - Headphones and Glasses

Ask for an immediate table change. Even if you win a hand or two against one of these pros, your profit margin is considerably smaller—not to mention they may be able to exploit you using their own poker prowess.

You should avoid sitting at poker tables where you see a bunch of guys (or girls) in headphones, hoodies, dark glasses and sweatpants pulling chips out of their pockets.

Their clothing indicates they are likely grinders with high win rates.

Instead, look for recreational business professionals or lively, animated casual players who run on ego moves rather than studied fundamentals of poker hand rankings.

Dress for Success

Now that you know what various clothing aesthetics signal to other players, you can use what to wear when playing poker (tells) to your advantage.

Recently, I showed up to a poker tournament wearing more formal business attire, and I immediately regretted it. Everyone thought I was an amateur, and I became a target.

People started making moves against me, which increased the volatility of the game. During the break, I snuck down to the gift shop to buy a classic poker ‘grinder’ hoodie.

No one messed with me after that!

Amanda is the author of the book A Girl's Guide to Poker, dedicated to making poker friendly and accessible to everyone. In 2021, she was a World Series of Poker final-tablist where she and her father took third place in the WSOP tag team event.