8 Reasons Poker Players Wear Sunglasses


If you’re watching a live poker tournament, chances are you’ll find a few players wearing sunglasses at the table. Newbies do it, and pros do it. Since the poker boom of early 2000, several fashion trends have swept through the world of poker like a hurricane.

From hoodies to poker hats, live poker tournaments have seen more bizarre fashion trends than a science fiction convention. If you’re not exactly sure why poker players love to wear shades, here are reasons why.

Why do poker players wear sunglasses? The main reason many players wear sunglasses at poker games is to hide tells or conceal their faces when they’re trying to catch tells. Since emotions can be read from eye movements and facial expressions, sunglasses could come in handy when you don’t want your opponents to read you. Other reasons include comfort, image, and fashion statement.

poker players wearing sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses at poker games gives you some advantages but also some disadvantages.

I’ve spoken to several poker players about sunglasses and why they wear them. From what I’ve gathered in those conversations and from personal experience, here are reasons poker players wear sunglasses during poker games:

  1. Shield Your Eyes From Revealing Tells
  2. Look for Tells
  3. To Look the Part
  4. Image
  5. Out of Habit
  6. Cheating
  7. Focus
  8. To Protect Their Eyes

1. Shield Your Eyes From Revealing Tells

Poker players learn to read opponents for tells as this is a skill that always comes in handy during games. One of the most effective ways to read people for tells is looking straight in their eyes.

 If you observe your opponents carefully, you can see the eyes project disappointment, anxiety, and fear in its unique way.

For example, if a player is staring at the flop a little too long, it’s probably because he/she missed it. No wonder they say the eyes are the windows of the soul.

With so much information to give away, it’s easy to see why players protect their eyes by wearing sunglasses. With the action getting more intense, it becomes even more challenging to control your emotions. This is why many players prefer to wear a pair of sunglasses during poker games.

2. Look for Tells

Sunglasses are just as effective in revealing tells as they are in concealing them. Now, it’s not that sunglasses magnifies tells, it’s just that it allows you to stare long and hard enough to catch one.

While it’s legal to find tells, it certainly would be weird if you kept staring at your opponent straight in the eyes for longer than usual. However, you can do this effectively without drawing much attention to yourself when you wear a pair of sunglasses.

With those dark shades on, no one will be able to tell if you’re staring directly at them or not.

Even if they suspect it, the sunglasses means they won’t be convinced enough to confront you. 

fashion poker sunglasses
You can wear sunglasses either to conceal your own tells, or hide the fact that you are trying to observe other players.

3. To Look the Part

Confidence is a tricky thing. Some people feel more confident when they wear certain clothes or carry out certain rituals. For many up and coming poker players, a pair of sunglasses is a big confidence boost. Not only does it make them feel like pros, but it also means they can fool opponents to think they’re pros.

One of the things newbies need to watch out for when they are playing against pros is their nerves. It’s understandable. You know you’re now competing against the big guns, and you need to bring your A-game. With all that pressure on your back, it’s easy to get all jittery and give away tells after tells.

But, with a pair of sunglasses on, you can sit comfortably without having to worry about the professionals reading you like a book. This comfy sense of being, gives you a new lease of life on the poker table.

Wearing sunglasses can act as a big confidence boost that allows you to play your game without any worries.

4. Image

The reason people go to poker tournaments indeed is to play the game they love and try to win some cash while at it. But, this doesn’t stop you from looking cool while at it and what’s cooler than a pair of sunglasses? If you want to make a fashion statement, a nice pair of shades is definitely a great accessory.

Live poker tournaments get TV coverage with lots of photographers trying to get a picture. If you want a cool picture of you somewhere on the internet, then putting on sunglasses is a no brainer.

It must be said, however, that most of the players who wear shades to look cool consist of the younger generation. As players grow older, their need to appear fashionable reduces. However, this is still a legit reason to wear sunglasses.

5. Out of Habit

While it’s common for up and coming poker players to wear sunglasses to hide their tells, they usually no longer need it by the time they become pros.

With loads of experience behind them, professional poker players hide their tells pretty well and do not need sunglasses to do so.

However, they may still wear shades out of habit. It’s more psychological than anything. It is the same way some players like to sit a certain kind of way while playing a hand. Because they’re already used to the feeling of wearing sunglasses while playing, they just stick to it anyway.

For example, Phil Hellmuth is a big fan of wearing sunglasses during live tournaments. With his experience and success, it’s difficult to imagine that he needs sunglasses to hide tells. Yet, you’ll almost always find Phil wearing a pair of dark shades during games.

sunglasses and baseball hat
Many poker players wear sunglasses because they are fashionable. Yet others need to wear them to protect their eyes.

6. Cheating

It has long been speculated that some players use sunglasses to cheat during games. This has led to several protests by famous poker players like Daniel Negreanu calling for sunglasses to be banned in live poker tournaments.

The belief is that players who are looking to cheat during games find a way to mark hole cards with a special ink that is visible when they wear special sunglasses. While some players believe that this isn’t true, there are lots of pros who genuinely think many poker players have been cheating and getting away with using sunglasses.

7. Focus

Some players believe sunglasses help keep their eyes where it needs to be. No doubt, there could be a few distractions around you. Some players like to engage in small talks. As you would imagine, that could be a recipe for disaster for new players who are still learning the game.

Sunglasses definitely limits your sight and blinds out some of the distraction.

Also, you would imagine that an opponent would be less likely to pick up a conversation with you if you’re all suited up with sunglasses that give the impression that you’re there only for business.

8. To Protect Their Eyes

Lastly, there is another category of poker players who wear sunglasses because their eyes are sensitive to light. Since the lights in casinos can be too bright, wearing sunglasses can help offset the effect of bright lights.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wearing Sunglasses

Now that we know why players wear sunglasses are there merits and demerits to joining the sunglasses craze? Below are the advantages and disadvantages of wearing sunglasses to a poker game.

Advantages

  • Concealing Tells: No doubt, there are benefits to wearing sunglasses while playing poker. The most apparent benefit is concealing tells. Since it’s easy to read tells from people’s eyes, you can easily make it hard for your opponent to read you by wearing sunglasses.
  • Confidence Boost: Another advantage is that it gives a confidence boost to newbies who are playing against pros. Since it’s considerably easier for pros to read players who are still relatively new to poker, a pair of sunglasses can give budding poker players a big boost. With the knowledge that they can’t easily be read, players can become more relaxed and a bit more confident in their abilities.

Disadvantages

Here are the reasons why wearing sunglasses to a poker game might be a bad idea

  • Misread Hands: By far, one of the most embarrassing things that could happen to you in a game of poker. But the reality is that your shades will make it harder for you to read hands properly. A mistake like this could cost you a huge pot and your pride as well. An excellent example of a misread hand would be the incident at the WSOP Main Event in 2012.

With around 50 players left, David Balkin, an Australian amateur, flopped a set of 10s against Gaelle Baumann. With a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses on his face, the Australian misread the board and Gaelle Baumann’s hand.

Misreading Gaelle’s nut flush for an inferior pair of aces, David Balkin celebrated what was actually a loss. You can have a look at that embarrassing moment:

YouTube video of David Balkin celebrating prematurely.
  • You can be Labelled a Cheat: Unfortunately, many pros aren’t quite impressed with players who wear sunglasses. Players have been called out before, and one of such cases happened in the 2015 WSOP.

In the $10,000 Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship, Valeriu Coca, and unknown Moldovan poker player managed to best-renowned stars like Connor Drinan, Byron Kaverman, and Pratyush Buddiga to finish 5th and take home $54,545. After the game, the pros compared notes and concluded that Coca cheated.

They believed he somehow marked the cards with an invisible liquid and used special sunglasses to view the marked cards. This meant he knew his opponent’s hands, giving him a clear advantage. Luckily for the Moldovan, he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the gaming commission, but that incident still remains fresh in the minds of poker players.

How did Sunglasses Become Popular?

As earlier stated, sunglasses became popular during the poker boom of early 2000.

Chris Moneymaker is considered to be one of the biggest influences on the sunglasses trend. Recall that Chris won the WSOP in 2003, coming in from an online satellite tournament to send shock waves across the poker world.

His success inspired many amateurs to take poker seriously in a move that sparked what was tagged as the ”moneymaker effect”. The moneymaker effect didn’t just encourage more people to play poker; it also meant Chris would popularize sunglasses. It sparked a new generation of poker players who adorned themselves in sunglasses and baseball hats.

Other Unusual Fashion Choices Amongst Poker Places

poker player with a hoodie
Hoodies are also a popular choice of poker players.

While you’re more likely to notice the guy with the dark shades first, other fashion trends are popular amongst poker players. They are:

Hoodies

Anyone should be able to wear a hoodie, but when 4 guys seated at the table are all dressed in hoodies, it’s safe to assume that there’s more to it. According to many poker players, these are the reason they wear hoodies:

  1. Comfort: For some players, a hoodie is simply a comfy outfit that allows them to feel maximum comfort while playing poker. When you’re preparing for a tournament, you obviously want to arm yourself with all you need to succeed. Sometimes, the Air conditioning in casinos might be a little too cold for you, but you want to keep all your focus on the action, so this is a distraction you don’t need. It is on such occasion that hoodies come in handy.
  2. Hiding Physical Tells: Many pros can catch tells by merely watching you move your body. A throbbing vein in your neck can give away information that you have a strong hand. When you’re playing against pros who are likely to pick on the little things, wearing a hoodie to cover up your body might not be such a bad idea.
  3. It’s Fashionable: Beyond the walls of casinos, hoodies are trendy and can make even the most awkward person look cool. Some players wear it just to look great and nothing more. Also, with poker players garnering a reputation for wearing hoodies, players who want to look the part may wear hoodies to make them appear like they have lots of experience playing poker.

Baseball Hats

Another fashion trend that’s popular amongst poker players is wearing baseball hats. More often than not, players actually combine baseball hats and sunglasses to give the desired effect. So, why are baseball hats popular in poker? Here’s why:

  1. Hide Tells: Baseball hats can help hide tells, especially when it’s related to your eyes. If you’re not a big fan of sunglasses, you can simply wear a baseball hat to cover your face. Although it still leaves your eyes exposed, the hat casts a shadow over your face that makes it difficult for anyone actually to see the movement of your eyes.
  2. It’s Fashionable: A lot of players wear hats because ”it’s what poker players wear.” If you’re gunning for the look of a serious, business-minded poker pro, a hat might actually do it for you.

Headphones

Headphones are also popular amongst players during live poker tournaments. For critics, it’s baffling why anyone would want to block their hearing during games where verbal communication can be crucial. I’ve spoken to a few players about this, and below are reasons some of them wear headphones during games.

  1. Nerves: If you’re battling against pros in a tensed poker session, you might want something to calm your nerves. Music does this for some players. Many of us make our best decisions when we are relaxed; the same goes for poker players. This is why some players come to games with their headphones on.
  2. Keep out Chatty Opponents:  If you’ve never sat next to that one abusive drunk poker player, you may not understand why earphones might be crucial. You don’t even have to be sat next to a drunk player to want your headphones on. Some of us simply aren’t chatty people. Some players prefer to keep their mind on the game and not join in small talks going on across the table. If you’re one such player, you can block out the noise with music from your earphones.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your poker routine, sunglasses can be a crucial part of your game. Whether you’re hiding tells or merely projecting the image of a cool poker player, you can’t overlook the place of sunglasses in modern poker. However, one man’s food, they say, is another man’s poison.

You only have to read this tweet from Daniel Negreanu to know how much hate sunglasses get from certain players. There is the school of thought that believes it makes cheating easy, while there are other people who believe the face to face contact is the one thing that differentiates online poker from live cash games.

Despite these claims, it’s highly unlikely that sunglasses would be banned anytime soon. Even Kim Kardashian wore a cool pair of mirrored sunglasses to the If Only Charity Poker event in 2018. While there is still a long-standing debate on how effective sunglasses genuinely are, what’s clear is that we’ll be seeing more players wearing sunglasses to live tournaments for the foreseeable future.

Related Question

Is there a dress code in poker games? Anyone can wear whatsoever they like to poker games, but house rules may prevent you from wearing certain clothes, especially if it’s deemed inappropriate. Also, certain casinos do not permit hats or the use of headphones. Basically, it depends on the house rules.

Can Wearing Sunglasses make me a better Poker Player? Not necessarily. Sunglasses can enhance your confidence and hide your tells, but your ability to win hands will largely depend on your poker skills rather than what you’re wearing.

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Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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