While poker is all about skill and strategy, today we ponder on the other side of all, the science and math. In science, the evidence is the evidence and they lead to solid conclusions. Common sense, on the other hand tends to steer us away from uncertainty and towards beliefs that fit in with other things we believe to be true.

As rational as poker players believe they are, there are also those ‘moments’ of superstition. All those poker moments don’t have logical explanations but it does bring good fortune on their side!  Interesting now that we say it right?

And that’s precisely what we call pseudoscience. Pseudoscience includes beliefs, theories, or practices that could be considered scientific but have no basis in scientific fact. Somewhere between fact and superstition. These beliefs could be scientific but can’t be tested scientifically or lack evidence to support them.

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The biggest example is astrology and alchemy which were legitimate forms of science at one point and then came to be categorized as a pseudoscience. Neuro-linguistics, programming, psychoanalysis, and even the technical analysis in finances fall under pseudo-sciences.

However, today, it doesn’t mean everyone who practices in these fields are worried to prove their scientific status. And to be fair, why would they? Many other fields have been called pseudo-sciences, with time and evolution it could prove a scientific base, that’s the endeavour.

Pseudosciences in Psychology

Let’s take a look at the field of Psychology. A lot of theories are yet to have scientific evidence but that doesn’t stop professionals from using the following practices:

  • Conversion Therapy– Attempts to change a person’s sexual preference from homosexual to heterosexual.
  • Hypnosis- A method of deep relaxation where the subject is open to suggestions.
  • Primal Therapy- Belief that experiences before and during birth influence the way our life unfolds.
  • Polygraph- A lie detector test used to determine if the subject is lying by measuring changes in some vital signs.
  • Psychoanalysis- Developed by Sigmund Freud, a psychiatric practice aimed at helping people overcome longstanding life difficulties.
  • Subliminal Advertising- Receiving data through seeing or hearing while not being aware of receiving it.

You’ve probably unconsciously applied one these pseudo-sciences in your life, similar to science, pseudoscience tends to span everywhere.

  • Body Language– The belief that two people send cues to one another based on their body positioning
  • Feng Shui– Changing spatial orientation in relation to the flow of energy in a room
  • Handwriting Analysis– A belief that a person’s personality can be seen through their handwriting

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Let’s take a look at the pseudoscience we see on the poker felts

Pysiognomy – This is the belief that one’s physical characteristics, especially one’s face, says a lot about his/her personality. It is said that American judge Edward Vincent Jones observed facial patterns in people charged with certain crimes. He then set out to systematize his thoughts, eventually calling it personology. Today, one of the most prominent teachers of personology is a woman called Naomi Tickle. And she’s adamant in saying that this is a science.

So what’s in it for poker players?

Personology also helps study one’s character and that is an important skill set for any professional poker player. Let’s say there’s an elderly gentlemen sitting at your table, your instant filter will be ‘he’s less aggressive than a younger poker player.  Now if it’s a Scandinavian, you immediately tag him as loose-aggressive. Up against a Chinese poker player and your math skills are immediately threatened. These are what we call cold reads in poker which include ethnicity, clothes, gender and age. They are broad generalizations based on social constructs that we often use.

Body language on the other hand is the type of information that depends on one’s perceptions about someone’s reactions. Known as reaction tells on the poker felts.  Some poker tells can be fake and most players are prone to subconsciously do just that.


Use your knowledge of body language with cold reads to have a definite edge on your poker game. The cold reads need to have a solid base and it’s up to you to decide the truth of the pseudoscience.

What’s interesting is you’ll notice patterns and you’ll need to test if it is a reliable source of information. These consciously or unconsciously are forming stereotypes that you have to internalize overtime. 

So, studying any type of cold read or body language reads is an excellent way for you to raise your self-awareness. Once you identify a certain pattern, your reaction might remain the same, but now you are able to dis-identify from it. 

In the meantime, if you start to develop any new theories or practices in poker, perhaps you should run them through a scientific experiment and build a belief system that is not a complete hogwash!