Can You Win With a Smile?

Erik J. Schlicht, a postdoctoral Harvard University student, has recently conducted a scientific research showing that poker face, as we know it, doesn’t really work.

poker face
A poker face?

In his research paper entitled 'Human wagering behavior depends on opponents' faces’, Schlicht presents his findings about novice players playing HE after being tested of their knowledge of poker. Based on their hands and a picture of the opponent facing them, they had to decide whether to call (winning or losing 5,000) or fold (losing 100 chips). The results of the experiment showed that neutral or threatening expressions did not affect decision-making, while friendly smiles discouraged the test subjects and their decisions were of reduced optimality.

Schlicht concluded that

"mistakes against trustworthy opponents resulted from increased loss aversion, suggesting that participants believed trustworthy opponents were betting with hands of greater value than neutral and untrustworthy opponents."