A LEADING poker player has revealed how to bluff your way through Christmas – by relaxing the jaw, blinking when making eye contact and trying not to fidget.
Card sharp Ian Simpson, a former Irish Open champion, has given advice for situations including opening up a naff present and navigating the office party.
He said: “With the festive season almost here, many of us will be looking forward to spending time with family and friends.
“Many of us, however, will also be dreading those little awkward moments that naturally occur – from smiling when we receive unwanted gifts to keeping up friendly chatter with the in-laws over dinner.
“There are times when the art of bluffing is just as essential for maintaining good relationships as it is for playing poker.”
To put on a perfect poker face after opening an unwanted gift, Simpson says the first step is to take deep breaths, relax your jaw and keep lips together.
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Eye contact shows the other person you have nothing to hide – but don’t forget to blink.
His advice also includes not fidgeting, not scratching your skin or playing with your hair, and keeping your voice balanced when you offer up a thank you.
Simpson, a spokesperson for 888poker, said: “If you hide that you got a bad gift, you run the risk of getting another bad gift next Christmas.
“That being said, if you want to protect someone’s feelings then as well as smiling and saying thank you upon receipt of the gift, make sure your gift giver sees you using your gift in the future.
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“Flash them your naff socks the next time you see them to reassure them that it was a nice gift – just be prepared to get another pair next year.”
When it comes to dealing with the complex politics around the office Christmas party, dealing with ‘tells’ that might give away your true feelings is critical.
Behaviours such as rubbing your own arms or cheeks are often a sign of distress, so if you spot a co-worker self-soothing in this way, they might need some extra reassurance.
If you need to pretend to be interested in a colleague’s Christmas party joke or show interest in a dull story, lean towards them as they speak and keep your posture open.
Even if you’re not paying attention, they will think you’re fascinated.
And Simpson claims novice players first learning to bluff will act the opposite to the strength of their hand, such as putting on a bored expression when they have a good hand, or aggressively throwing chips into the pot when bluffing.
He recommends those chatting to a co-worker at the office party who is unnecessarily standoffish or abrasive in their remarks should remember they might be using this behaviour as a mask to hide their insecurities.
It is also advised to look people in the eye as you talk to show them you care, as those lying or under stress are less likely to make eye contact, may blink more often or rapidly change direction of gaze.
Ian Simpson added: “Outside of poker, I’m most likely to bluff when dealing with companies for sure.
“Whenever competitors want your business, you can say you've been offered a better price by someone else in your negotiating to help you get a better deal.
“When dealing with work colleagues, and particularly your boss, bluffing could help you negotiate better working conditions or even a better salary.
“Whatever your plans are for the Christmas holidays, the chances are you will need to bluff on occasion.
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“Whether that’s telling your mother-in-law that you love her Christmas jumper, pretending the turkey isn’t dry, or being sociable with people you would really rather avoid until the office opens again in January.
“When you practice the art of bluffing, you can not only improve your poker skills, but perhaps also get through the festive season without being the one that starts the annual family row.”
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