The topic has long been debated and discussed in poker circles around the world. Should poker players be able to hide behind sunglasses, hats and scarves, beards and hoodies?
Cash games permit players to wear nearly anything, but tournament organizers are different in the rules they can implement. While few have prohibited players from wearing sunglasses or other headwear, the Super High Roller Bowl held last month did announce a rule that forbid any players from wearing sunglasses. They also implemented a business-casual dress code due to the presence of corporate sponsors for the event. And all of the 49 players complied as they put up their $300K to play.
For those who advocate for the freedom to hide any parts of their heads they choose, however, there are now statistics that back up their points. More players win with some kind of facial obstruction than not … and by a rather large margin.
Numbers Do Not Lie
PokerSites.com recently provided the results of a study of past World Series of Poker winners to compare the results of those with facial obstructions and those without anything covering their heads or faces. (The inclusion of beards and goatees implies a gender bias for which there is no explanation.)
By looking at photos of all WSOP Main Event winner photos, the authors of the article provided several key facts you can see in the infographic below (provided by PokerSites):
As for WSOP champions through the years, beginning in 1970 and running through 2015, there were interesting trends. Eyeglasses were more common in the earlier years, as more players today wear contact lenses or have vision-correcting surgery. Sunglasses, on the other hand, had their moments through the years. The late 1970s and 1980s found more champions with sunglasses, as well as an overwhelming number through the early 2000s as the poker boom came and then began to fade.
We should stop focusing on a sunglasses ban at the poker table and start thinking about a cologne ban— Blake Warner (@BlakeWarner11) June 22, 2016
Hats have had their years of popularity as well, most notably in the early 1990s and then again during the poker boom from 2003 to 2010. Hoodies, on the other hand, took a backseat to all other forms of headgear, as they were only donned on the 2010 and 2011 winners.
Facial hair did not appear on a WSOP winner until 1982 and have only gotten increasingly popular, especially since 2000. The last five of six champions have competed with some kind of facial hair.
Overall, 85% of all WSOP Main Event winners donned some type of face/head obstruction.
Play with Pride
Draw your own conclusions about whether the obstructions helped poker players win their Main Event titles. The data may simply reveal more about the trends of the day than the roles that the obstructions played in the players’ ability to win.
Two legends of poker are playing heads up for a razz bracelet and both are wearing sunglasses …— Ben Lamb (@BenbaLamb) June 16, 2016
On one hand, facial and head obstructions can be a benefit to the player and give off their own special tells about the players who don them. Eyeglasses are often necessities, though, and scarves are not only stylish but protect players from maniac-like air conditioning ducts in poker rooms and arenas.
On the other hand, poker purists are correct in the assertion that the game should be played with all tells on the table. Either control that neck pulse or eye twitch, or learn to manipulate opponents with those tells. Own it.
As for beards and goatees, they have gotten out of control. Men have taken facial hair that was meant to be nicely coiffed and allowed it to grow like moss, taking over the entirety of their lower faces and necks. And it becomes a health issue when the man may or may not be up to date with his hygiene regimen and those near him must wonder what kind of bacteria could be growing in there.
Poker officials can regulate the sunglasses but will have a hard time dictating facial hair, eyeglasses, and even scarves. Just try to have some sense of style with it, and ask friends – the honest ones who will tell you the truth – how that face/neck hair really looks.
Dollar shave club with the non stop ads during super high roller, being watched by a bunch of poker players who dont shave their neck beards— aMinuteWithMitch (@MitchMonet) June 1, 2016