What Does Poker Face Mean?

Poker Face Meaning

Definition: An expressionless face that does not reveal a person’s thoughts.

Origin of Poker Face

This expression dates back to the second half of the 1800s. It comes from the card game poker.

In poker, all the players have a hand of cards. They bet money on their hand. Strategically, it benefits each player to keep the value of his or her hand secret. This is because, if they have a strong hand, the other players will not bet on their own hands. This causes the person with the strong hand to not win as much money for that hand as her or she could have.

This is also true for a person with a weak hand. A person with bad cards can still win money by bluffing if everyone believes that his cards are high.

Therefore, poker players try to keep their faces completely blank, so that no one can tell whether their cards are good or bad.

Examples of Poker Face

what is poker face meansIn this dialogue, two employees are discussing an upcoming meeting.

Deanna: Do you know what this meeting is about?

Emily: I’m not sure, but I heard it was about some money that was stolen from the office.

Deanna: I hope the boss doesn’t accuse me! I tend to look guilty even when I am innocent.

Emily: If he does accuse you, just try to maintain a poker face.

Deanna: I’ll do my best.

whats a poker faceIn the second example, two baseball players are getting ready for a game.

Billy: There’s no way that we can win. I know this. You know this. It’s just the rest of the team that doesn’t know.

Angie: We might win, but the only way that we’ll accomplish that is if our team believes that we can do it!

Billy: So are you saying that I should lie to them and tell them we have a chance?

Angie: I’m just telling you to keep quiet about your opinion and don’t look worried. No one can read a poker face.

Billy: I’ll try.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a baseball player who has very expressive facial expressions.

  • But if the game goes off script, Girardi’s penchant is to tighten up, display every facial tell of a man being swamped by tension. He is not blessed with Second City ad-lib dexterity — nor a poker face. –New York Post

This excerpt is from an article giving a movie review.

  • We’re introduced to Felt in his ordinary suburban home, getting ready for another day of work at the Bureau. He’s a tall and soft-spoken man who hides the dirty secrets of the country, and his organization, behind a stoic poker face. –New York Daily News

Summary

The idiom poker face refers to a person’s face that is hiding its emotions and thoughts.