Like floral sunglasses, emoji headdresses, cowboy hats, and hacker hoodies, scarves have become a common fashion accessory in televised tournaments. Despite how ridiculous it looks, professionals and amateurs still use scarves whenever they hit the felt. They say it’s for comfort, but that can’t be the only reason they’re using scarves, right?
The main reason why poker players use scarves is for comfort. But more than that, the use of scarves creates an unfair advantage when at the poker table. It helps them hide neck tells when making a big bet, and any involuntary movement, such as their breathing rate and lip movements.
Most players who use scarves know that their accessory doesn’t make them look cool. However, they’re still using it because they believe they need it. We’ll cover the most common reasons why some poker players use scarves and help you have a good grasp of the advantages that they’re getting from using one.
Scarves Can Effectively Hide Neck Tells
Look at your neck. Can you see the huge veins on both sides? Those are your jugular veins and are two of the areas in your body that are most susceptible to attacks. The phrase “go for the jugular,” means that you’re attacking the most vulnerable part of your enemy. Interestingly, some poker players also use the jugular veins to “attack” an opponent.
In theory, when a player has a strong hand, he gets so pumped up that his jugular veins beat faster. When it’s beating slower, that player has a mediocre hand. A player who has a strong hand can be exploited through the jugular veins. That’s why players need to hide it from their opponents.
The problem with jugular veins is that a person has no control over how fast or slow it beats. Trying to stop it is similar to controlling your emotions whenever you wake up to a pocket ace—it’s impossible.
Wrapping a scarf around your neck, regardless of how thin it may be, will protect your jugular veins from possible exploitations. Some players believe that using it will hide their most vulnerable spot whenever they’re at the felt, but is it true?
The reliability of the neck tells when playing poker depends on who you’re asking. When you’re playing poker, do you only get excited when you have a strong hand? Most of us get pumped up whenever we’re value betting or bluffing, and that can be counterintuitive if we only rely on neck tells to read our opponents.
Players, even professionals, use it for this purpose. Sometimes, it even gets a bit too much when players use multiple layers of scarves just to hide their neck tells. Whether you believe that your jugular vein is a vulnerable spot when you’re at the felt or not, there’s nothing wrong trying to hide it.
Scarves Cover the Mouth & Involuntary Movements
When facing a Negreanu-like card reader or some other top poker player in tournaments, you’d want to hide as many parts of your face as possible. That’s because they can take advantage of the slightest movements that you do on the table. Experts call it microexpressions, but in poker, we call it “tells.” Often, we’re not aware of these expressions and, sometimes, we can’t even control it.
The smallest smirk, the slightest movement of your lip, and the most subtle grin say nothing about you at first. However, when facing a professional poker player, they’ll remember every instance that you do these expressions.
If you good poker players enough time to “read” your plays, they can tell, with great accuracy, whether you have a strong hand or just bluffing.
High-level players can also use your breathing to read through your plays. Sure, your breathing can be fast whenever you’re making a value bet or bluffing, but as they learn your strategies, even the slightest change in your breathing can be a useful tell. Some players believe that your mouth is a more effective source of tells whenever you’re playing because this is where most of your microexpressions happen.
Since these are movements that you can’t control—average players aren’t even aware that they have tells—whenever you’re at the felt, the best way to hide your tells is through a scarf. It gives you the freedom to play your cards as you wish, without being too concerned with the tells that you subconsciously make.
Wearing Scarves Is Comfortable and Cool
The most common reason you’ll hear from poker players is that scarves keep them comfortable. Although it has its merits, especially when you’re already playing for hours, it’s most likely the least concern for players.
Scarves can indeed make them feel warm and comfortable while playing, but a bigger reason is their tells.
Some players claim that their scarves are for fashion. Dario Minieri was one of the most notable players who wore an AS Roma scarf during the European Poker Tour. It was cool back then, and he instantly became a trendsetter. However, other players who use scarves are too ridiculous to be cool. There are even some who go as far as using multiple layers of scarves to hide their faces, which, according to them, is a fashion statement, but it’s really far from it.
Like funny hats, emoji headdresses, weird sunglasses, cumbersome headphones, and hackers hoodies, ridiculously thick scarves have become a top trend at poker tables. Whether it’s for comfort, fashion, or to improve their chances of winning, more and more players use them in their games. It’s one reason why a dress code or list of banned accessories in poker remains one of the hottest topics in many forums.
Are Scarves Acceptable When Playing Poker?
There’s no rule in any poker game regarding the accessories that players can use—players can wear what they want. However, the use of scarves gets in the way of the only reason why poker became popular—reading your opponents accurately.
Hiding half of your face from your opponents has a huge advantage, especially if you have an unmistakable tell whenever you’re holding a strong hand. However, playing poker relies on reading your opponents and using every piece of data that you have to crush them.
Many poker enthusiasts believe that each player on the table should have a fair chance to read their opponents. Whether it’s the most reliable tells that they do when they have stone-cold-nuts, or the most subtle change in their breathing, being able to use it against their opponents is the epitome of an exceptional poker player.
Beyond having a “poker face,” purposely hiding your tells to gain an advantage over your opponents doesn’t really say much about a player’s poker skill. Sure, hiding tells won’t be enough to win a WSOP bracelet, but many enthusiasts consider the use of scarves as an unfair advantage. Many would even go as far as claiming that scarves are useless for hiding tells.
Most of the players who wear scarves will say that they’re wearing one for comfort and fashion, which may be true. If you’re playing for hours in a cold room, you may want to have something to keep you warm and cozy. In televised tournaments, with millions of people watching, you can quickly become a trendsetter with scarves.
The use of scarves also has a clear advantage when it comes to hiding tells. It doesn’t matter if what they’re trying to hide is reliable and useful for their opponents. As long as it makes them feel comfortable and makes the game more interesting to watch, there’s really nothing wrong with the use of scarves in poker.