by Diane McHaffie
The first time I saw Greg Raymer at the poker table, wearing his obnoxious, animated sunglasses, I thought, “What the hell! Those are the most distasteful sunglasses I’ve ever seen! They are so creepy! Why would anyone want to be seen wearing those?”
ET. In movies and on TV we’ve seen extraterrestrials portrayed with huge eyes, and that is definitely what Greg reminds me of: an alien! Why would he want to appear to be an ET at the poker table? Well, it seems that his bizarre glasses are designed to weird out players and make them uncomfortable, thereby giving him a distinct advantage. Yes, I’m aware he’s a world-class poker player, but would he be as good without the glasses? Would he be able to stare an opponent down without flinching or blinking? How would he like to sit across from someone wearing a motorcycle helmet with a face shield and gloves?
Afraid. Research tells me that many sunglass-attired players – but probably not Raymer – are afraid! They’re frightened of giving away tells with their eyes. Sunglasses are a preventative measure for them. Perhaps they are unsure of their own ability to control their emotions, so they need this extra prop to assist them in their cover-up. News flash here! Hands, shoulders, and the mouth can also give away tells. That’s right! The mouth can emit sighs, tighten in grimness, smirk with triumph, frown with displeasure and smile with satisfaction. Shall you cover the mouth with a handkerchief, like a bandit, just to prevent tells? Don’t forget the hands! When they tremble, it isn’t a nervous reaction, it’s relief. The player made a super hand. Will they now don gloves to hide their hands?
Many players like Mike Caro, prefer not to wear sunglasses. He feels, as do many other professional players, that sunglasses give a player an “unfair advantage” over their opponents. Players in the old west didn’t wear sunglasses! They dueled their opponents with unmasked, steely eyes. How things have changed!
Ah, but there are disadvantages to wearing sunglasses. Have you tried to wear sunglasses at night? Wow! Well, you get the same results in a dimly-lit casino. Clubs resemble spades and diamonds resemble hearts! Mistakes are likely to happen. Try attempting to read your phone, Kindle or GPS with sunglasses. Problematic!
Recognize. The other disadvantage to sunglasses is recognition. Ok, so Greg is a recognizable player, but would he be without his glasses? Most likely, but how about a rookie player who has just won an event at the WSOP attired in sunglasses, cap, or hoodie. If he discards the props and prances proudly down the hall at the RIO, I’m betting no one recognizes him. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of stardom?
It would be akin to Mike’s practice of donning an Ivy cap, attempting to be incognito at airports. Travelers’ eyes should normally slide right past him. Unfortunately, this attempt at escaping recognition doesn’t always work for Mike.
Hide. When I attend the WSOP with Mike and observe the small assortment of players wearing hoodies and sunglasses, I wonder what they have to hide or are trying to achieve. Are they intimidated by the pros? Are they insecure in their abilities to hide their emotions and reactions? Are they trying to be inconspicuous? Are they being nefarious? Or, are they attempting to be cute? Perhaps, they actually want to be noticed.
My guess is that players who choose to play without the aid of sunglasses do so because they possess a higher confidence level. They are more secure in their abilities, their skill, and their images. Do you see Doyle Brunson sporting sunglasses? Absolutely not! In fact, there are many, many players who successfully intimidate or bluff with their eyes and facial expressions. They rely on the fact that you can see their expressions.
Hmm, could sunglasses be a pacifier to soothe insecurities? Could it be like Johnny hiding under the bed from the big bad monster? Or, are they merely trying to make a fashion statement to the cameras?
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at email@example.com.