Dressing for the Win in Poker

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The primary purpose of clothing used to be to keep your pecker warm. Then came the dance. Nobody knew its name. Suddenly, your choice of attire became more important than what you ate. The style was everything. Clothes became symbolic. Sex symbols became living billboards.

And then came the psychology.

You Are What You Wear?

Did you know that if you wore a Superman t-shirt, you’d feel stronger?

If you think, that's far-fetched, American journalist and author, A. J. Jacobs, once spent an entire year living in strict accordance with every rule in the Bible, including wearing nothing but white, and still regularly dresses like Jesus because it makes him feel ‘happier, lighter, purer.'

Does it matter if you think you're wearing a white coat that belongs to a doctor? According to an article penned in 2012 that appeared in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, it does. The research team found heightened attention when they thought they were wearing a Doctor's coat instead of one belonging to a painter.

One more study for you.

The hotel chain, Holiday Inn Express, polled their clientele and found that 90% believed looking good for work mattered.

What if poker was your profession?

Would your choice of clothing result in a few extra big blinds won per hour?

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Clothing Style vs Poker Play

We rounded up ten of poker's most fashionable females and fellows to ask them to spill the beans on their fashionable foibles and fur balls, and this is what they had to say.

Does what you wear at the poker table affect your image to the degree that people change the way they play against you?

A whopping 90% of panellists believed that how you dress at the poker table has a bearing on how your opponent will play against you. But most of the pros were insistent that it only had a bearing when facing recreational players and not pro vs. pro.

"Your appearance at the table affects the way opponents play against you,” said the former Global Poker Index Player of the Decade Top 10 nominee, Shannon Shorr. "We're all subconsciously making assumptions about others given the limited information that we have, so appearance is a big one."

The way you dress has such a significant bearing on thin-slicing that some pros use fashion to confuse their opponent into thinking they are weaker than they are.

"I wear a bonnet, comfortable sweater and training trousers, so the other players think I am an "Internet player," said Jean-Marie Vandeborne. "This way they think I bluff more often."

"Some players are sneaky and can manipulate others' assumptions by dressing a certain way,” said Shorr.

Former European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event Champion, Ben Wilinofsky, is one of those masters of disguise.

"I try as much as possible to look like I'm rich and dumb, both of which are only mildly true," said Wilinofsky.

But it can also work to the detriment of the pro player, especially if you are a sponsored pro.

"One of the things that could affect someone's play against me is if they didn't know me but saw that I was wearing an 888 patch and deduced that I was a pro,” said the world's most successful online MTT player, Chris Moorman.

Would you consider wearing clothing or an accessory purely to gain an advantage at the table, what is it and why?

The results of this poll weren’t as one sided as the first with 60% saying that they would consider wearing clothing or an accessory to gain an advantage at the table.

World Poker Tour (WPT) Champions Club member, Sean Jazayeri believes that wearing sunglasses gives him an advantage:

"Sunglasses can give you an edge, and I wear them in big tourneys so I can watch people without them knowing,” said Jazayeri.

Ben Wilinofsky uses a scarf to gain an edge.

"I've worn a scarf to cover my mouth sometimes,” said Wilinofsky. "Socially I'm not the best, so I'm more comfortable when I'm sure my expression isn't giving anything away."

WPT Champions Club member, Matas Cimbolas, believes wearing unconventional hats gets people talking to him, and that puts them more at ease, which is to his advantage.

"I like wearing hats, and sometimes players like to chat about it with me while playing,” said Cimbolas.

Shannon Shorr also likes the idea of wearing goofy themed hats or using goofy card protectors, and although 888 Ambassador, Natalie Hof wouldn't dress to kill she does believe some women gain an edge over the men with the choice of right clothing.

"I wouldn't do it, but I think that sexy clothing would affect some of the guys' game against a woman,” said Hof.

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Accessories, Worst and Strangest Dressed

Have you found that certain clothes or accessories have changed your game in a negative sense?

Only 30% of those polled believed that a piece of clothing or accessory had affected them in a negative sense.

Natalie Hof doesn't like wearing clothes that don't cover her neck, and Chris Moorman isn't a fan of sunglasses.

"I played one time many years ago, with sunglasses on, misread the board, and that was the end of that,” said Moorman.

Who is the worst dressed person you have met in poker?

Jean-Marie Vandeborne believes the award for worst dressed poker player is a tie between Phil Hellmuth & Davidi Kitai, Natalie Hof isn't a fan of Elky's dress sense but says ‘he is a nice guy, though,' and Ben Wilinofsky is quite clear on who he thinks needs tips from Dolce or Gabbana.

"I'm of the opinion that fashion is personal, and so 'worst dressed' isn't a thing as long as you, personally, are happy with how you present yourself," said Wilinofsky before continuing, "but definitely the worst dressed person in poker is Dominik Nitsche."

But none of our superstars has ever sat down at a poker table wearing a baby.

"The weirdest thing I have ever seen was this summer in Vegas," said Matas Cimbolas. "A guy was playing tournaments with a fake baby on his belly in a baby carrier."

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Banned Clothing and Accessories

What one item of clothing or an accessory would you ban from poker and why?

The players were quite clear that anything that obscures the neck or eyes should be banned. Only one panellist felt it wasn't necessary to ban anything.

Two themes stood out.

Theme #1 Anything That Obscures the Head & Neck

60% of those polled wanted sunglasses banned, and 20% went for scarves and hoods. The panel broadly felt that anything that removed the ability to see the top half of a person's face removed an important aspect of poker - live tells.

"Anything that covers the top of the head is not good for the game," said the former United Kingdom & Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) winner, Ludovic Jonsen.

"I'm not a fan of sunglasses, scarfs - basically anything that covers the face," said the former WSOP Nov Niner and Tournament Director, Kenny Hallaert. "I think being able to control your facial emotions at the poker table is a skill which shouldn't be hidden during play."

888 Ambassador Chris Moorman and the American Shannon Shorr agree with Hallaert.

"Sunglasses spoils the pureness of the game," said Moorman.

"I would ban sunglasses to save the drama and time that some people take putting them on and off during a hand," said Shorr.

Theme #2 Anything That Reduces Sociability

Sean Jazayeri felt that phones and earphones should be banned from the table to increase sociability. And the former World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC) Main Event winner, John Eames, would also like to see headphones banned to increase the likelihood that people would talk more and therefore make the game more relaxed and enjoyable.

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Final Table Clothing Style Etiquette

Do you think players should make more of an effort at a final table and the reasoning behind your answer?

70% of those polled felt it was important for players to dress well when appearing on a final table with the main reason being to attract more recreational players into the game. However, there were a few dissenters.

The players don't play for the industry, they play for themselves," said Jean-Marie Vandeborne. "The only thing that matters is to be relaxed, and so I don't think they have to make an effort with their appearance."

"There was a time when I definitely would have said players should make an attempt to dress neatly at final tables," said Shannon Shorr, "Today, I think players should dress however they wish to be portrayed, and whichever way brings them the most happiness. One of the appeals of poker is anyone can do it and that there is no dress code.”

Are Poker Players Really Superstitious?

Do you have any superstitions when it comes to clothing or accessories and poker?

I guess poker players aren’t superstitious.

Only three players admitted to having a superstition, and two of them were in the past. Ludovic Jonsen used to wear a lucky jumper, Natalie Hof used to wear a ring from her Mum, and Ben Wilinofsky was the only one who continues with his superstition to this day. Although I am sure his opponents aren't too happy about that decision.

I'm still wearing the same pair of underwear from when I won EPT Berlin,” said Wilinofsky.

Politics and Religion in Poker?

Should people be allowed to wear political or religious statements on clothing at the poker table?

This question split the panel down the middle, but there was a theme. The few who were okay with the idea said as long as it wasn't offensive. But most people, irrespective of which camp they were in, said it would be impossible for the Tournament Director's team to regulate it, and that would create inconsistency throughout the tours.

"I firmly believe that political or religious statements on clothing can offend other people and cause some serious problems between players from around the world with so many different opinions, religions and thoughts,” said Matas Cimbolas. "I think that it would have to be well regulated by Tournament Directors."

"Yes, people should be allowed to make statements at the poker table with their clothing,” said Shannon Shorr. "Again, one of the appeals to poker is that you have no boss telling you what you can and can't wear. Policing it would be a fine line."

Kenny Hallaert is a Tournament Director, and he is not a fan of the idea.

As a tournament organiser, I wouldn't allow this. Religion and politics have nothing to do with poker, and if people want to express their statements, they should find other ways to do this."

Chris Moorman makes an excellent point.

People can do what they want, but they should just be prepared for conversation, questions and possible backlash."

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The Question of Sponsored / Branded Clothing

Would you wear ‘operator branded clothing’ at a poker table?

Only John Eames was reluctant to wear ‘operator branded clothing’ at the poker table.

“You would have to be a pigeon,” said Eames.

The rest of the panel disagreed with the shoe bomber. But there were some caveats, mainly, to do with money, but a few people agreeing to wear them as long as they looked stylish, and if the brand was something they could support.

"I'd be open to wearing anything at the table if it was something I supported or believed in,” said Shannon Shorr before continuing, "Or if I was paid the right amount of money."

What items of clothing or accessories make it more difficult for you to get a read on someone?

Once again it was sunglasses, scarves and hoods that came under scrutiny with almost all the panel saying that these three pieces of clothing/accessories made it difficult for them to get a live read on a player.

Only Ludovic Jonsen took a different line.

"It would be difficult to get a read on a goth/mosher type player,” said Jonsen.

There wouldn't be many Superman t-shirts or people wearing white in that game.

Thanks to Sean Jazayeri, Ludovic Jonsen, Jean-Marie Vandeborne, Ben Wilinofsky, Kenny Hallaert, John Eames, Matas Cimbolas, Natalie Hof, Shannon Shorr, and Chris Moorman for their help with this article.

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