How’s Your Bridge Face?
by Alex J Coyne © 2016 Great Bridge Links
Like most card games, Bridge is a social game. And, like poker, you want to have your emotions in check and your “game face” perfectly developed by the time you’re sitting down to play. Winning isn’t just about how well you play or how the cards are dealt; it’s about how well you know yourself and your opponents – and yet it’s often the last thing players think about. Here’s how to develop what I like to call your bridge-face…
Observe, observe, observe
Sherlock Holmes famously said, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” First, learn to watch the behavior of other players. Establish what’s called a baseline in their behavior before you set out to do anything else. That is to say, what’s normal behavior for them? This helps you spot anything they might do that’s “out of the ordinary” when their hand starts to go bad (or exceptionally well!) – chewing their nails, playing with their rings or tapping their fingers on the table.
Watch your tongue
There’s nothing wrong with conversation around the table, but it pays to focus on what people are saying and how they’re saying it. Are they moving away from the general small talk and instead starting to talk a little bit too much, or going entirely quiet where they were pretty chatty during the last game? In spotting someone’s tells, you want to look out for any changes from their baseline, or normal behavior.
The confidence trick
Someone who appears too confident usually isn’t, and someone who tries to obviously downplay their confidence is trying to hide something.
One of the most common tells is unnecessary fidgeting. Watch what players are doing with their hands, and keep your own hands in check, too. Do they reach up and pull at their collar every now and then? Are they turning their rings over preceding a bad (or good) hand? This is another time where knowing their baseline behavior is especially useful.
Body language experts also look for signs of deliberate misleading. When people are trying to control their body language, it tends to show: The real emotion slips through regardless. When looking at someone’s body language to determine what’s going on in their heads, don’t just look at one tell: Especially not with more experienced players. Look at their body language as a whole. What is it telling you? Relate their body language to their hand.
Not all behavior can be controlled. For example, I’d like you to imagine that you’re about to win. No, really – I want you to close your eyes and really imagine it. I want you to really feel triumphant: Victorious. On top of the world. Now think about what the rest of your body was doing while your mind ran with it. Did the corner of your mouth twitch? Did your hand reach up and touch your chin? It could be subtle, or it could be as obvious as a flashing sign on your forehead.
Everyone’s got a tell or two – find yours!
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About the author: Alex J Coyne is a freelance journalist, author and language practitioner. Sometimes, he’s got an ace up his sleeve and a Joker in his hat. He can be found at his blog. alexcoyneofficial.wordpress.com