Why Do Poker Players Wear Sunglasses?

Learn why so many poker players wear sunglasses at a poker table. We review the pros and cons of wearing shades during poker.

why do poker players wear sunglasses at a poker table?
Why Do Poker Players Wear Sunglasses?

Sunglasses are popular accessories among professional and casual poker players. Are players wearing shades just to look the part of a slick grinder or are there other purposes for the eyewear?

Below, we discuss the different reasons why various players have sunglasses on during any poker games as well as participating in tournaments.

10 Reasons Why Poker Players Wear Sunglasses

Can sunglasses provide an edge over other opponents or is it just a fashion accessory? Below are how poker players use sunglasses during any game.

1. Refrain From Revealing Tells

When a person gets excited, their pupils dilate. Players have many reasons to be excited for in a poker game such as having pocket aces or going all-in with nothing but a pair. While getting a read on your opponents' eyes during an actual match can be hard, seasoned players can immediately spot dilating eyes at the right moment.

Faking or controlling a dilating pupil is extremely difficult for anyone to pull off. An effective alternative to prevent anyone from revealing a tell is wearing sunglasses. By hiding one's pupils behind a dark tint, they prevent their eyes from giving away any information to opponents across the table.

2. Observe Players Discreetly

Anyone will have their guard up when someone is observing them. Having observers is how schools prevent cheating during tests while banks have cameras to discourage thievery. When a player notices someone is watching over them, they become aware of any behavior changes that they subconsciously let out.

Covering your eyes with tinted shades allow you to observe your opponents in their natural poker habitat. Sunglasses let you watch for the usual tells such as face touching, handshaking, and card covering without alerting them.  

By not letting your opponent know you are staring at other players, you also prevent giving away a tell. Players who become more observant of people around the table are planning something devious.

3. Build a Persona at the Table

Regulars of a casino or card room want to create a recognizable image of themselves within the establishment. To achieve that persona, they wear specific fashion gears or accessories to achieve a specific look.

Take the legendary Doyle Brunson for example who always sports a cowboy hat to emphasize his Texan lineage. You also have Chris Ferguson with his dark sunglasses and beard to give off an intimidating vibe.

Sunglasses are one of the accessories that help players create an image for other players around the room. Players' faces and hands are more visible to everyone around the room than their upper body, making eyewear one of the best gear to establish a persona.

Inexperienced poker players with sunglasses are easy targets...
Inexperienced poker players with sunglasses are easy targets...

4. Focus

Under normal circumstances, wearing sunglasses indoors is not ideal since a person's vision is limited behind the tint. Wearing shades during other card games such as blackjack or war puts a player at a disadvantage if they have difficulty seeing other people's cards.

Intentionally limiting your vision during a poker game with sunglasses can give you an advantage. You can avoid any distractions within your surroundings such as the fast-moving lights at the slot machines or monitors showing advertisements. Shades help you focus on your opponents, your hole, and the board, allowing you to calculate an accurate probability on your odds of winning.

Remember that a professional player, even if not famous, needs to play at their best and they must follow their strategy to the T. Anything that helps them focus more and for longer, such as sunglasses, is more than welcome.

5. Boost Their Confidence

Putting up a strong resolve can make a difference during any poker game. Aggressive players are always on the hunt for weak players that tend to fold with any over bet despite having a strong hand. Timid players require some means of deflecting any threatening vibe while giving everyone around the table a tough and calculating vibe.

Poker players such as Chris Fergusen make use of sunglasses to create a tough front. Shades create an intimidating facial expression since it hides the eyes, making the person seem emotionless.  By boosting one's conviction, you can focus on calculating the odds of an overbet being a real threat or just an empty bluff.

6. Imitating Other Players

Famous professional players during live main events tend to have sunglasses on throughout the game. You can even see many WSOP participants wearing dark tinted eyewear. For anyone unfamiliar with poker, players with sunglasses are seen as someone with a witty plan and can bluff everyone around the table.

Channeling the professionals by wearing the same sunglasses as them is a way to get their spirit and knowledgable persona during any poker game. By imitating the pros, players feel confident with their bluffs or in calculating the outs as well as the pot odds. Poker players also want to achieve the same fashionable look as a WSOP regular to make them feel like the main event participant.

Fortunately, professional players are great at poker for many reasons other than wearing shades.

7. Protect Their Eyes From Bright Lights

Casinos consistently have high wattage lights shining down on poker tables 24/7, creating the illusion of perpetual daytime within the floor that encourages patrons to keep playing. Along with the blinking and flashing lights of slot machines, spending several hours in card rooms can strain a player's eyes.

Casual casino patrons or even tourists are less likely to experience any problems with the lights since they frequent the gambling floor for a few hours. For professional grinders, they require sunglasses to protect their eyes from continuous exposure to intense lighting. Professionals prefer glasses with polarized lenses that allow more lighting to pass through within dark areas while blocking too much of it in bright rooms.  

8. Cool-Looking Fashion

Wearing the right sunglasses can make anyone 50% cooler and we have the science to explain it. Nearly every face is asymmetrical where both sides are uneven due to facial shapes or flaws around the eyes. With shades that cover up a person's flaws, they achieve symmetrical facial feature that makes them look cool in the eyes of an observer.

Apart from facial flaws, sunglasses also hide the eyes and most parts of a poker player's face. Hiding most parts of the face creates a sense of mystery and intrigue. As science would explain, the unknown has an attractive appeal among younger demographics.   

9. Out of Habit

Seasoned poker players wear shades during any poker game simply because it feels right. Many of them do not need to hide their eyes to give away any physical tells. Even veterans think shades are too mainstream or common among cardrooms to make them cool.

Routines are normal behavior among poker players. Professional players who consistently wear sunglasses during their first years in their career tend to continue wearing them in future games. For them, sunglasses provide a sense of comfort and protection because they are following their habit. Since confidence is a major factor for regular poker players, sticking to a routine is essential to winning pots.

10. Cheating

Daniel Negreanu tweeted back in June 2015 that sunglasses are a common tool used by cheaters. UV lenses on sunglasses allow people to see invisible inks onto mark cards, telling the wearer what cards their opponents are holding. To Negreanu's credit, UV sunglasses with marked cards are real and are readily available.

For a cheater to take advantage of their sunglasses, their mark decks need to pass through numerous hurdles. Poker tournament organizers and casinos use infrared and UV technology to look for any marked cards. Dealers must also use cards from unopened decks at random intervals each day. Negreanu's argument still holds if cheaters managed to go through those hurdles and use UV sunglasses to see the marked cards.

Pros Of Sunglasses During Poker

Realistically, there are still a few advantages to wearing sunnies at a poker table.

Hide Physical Tells

Protection is a major advantage to wearing sunglasses. Players can hide their excitement or nervousness by shielding their pupils with dark tinted glasses. Sunglasses also allow anyone to quietly observe everyone around the table without raising suspicion.

Prevent Eye Strain

Healthwise, sunglasses can prevent eye strain among professional grinders who are frequently exposed to the bright and flickers lights within casino floors. Poker players can play for hours without the worry of tired eyes or general fatigue while wearing the right eyewear.

Project a Persona

Completing an image or look is another advantage of sunglasses. Shades can add a sense of mystique and intrigue to those who wear them.

Cons Of Sunglasses During Poker

Controversy during the WSOP over a rookie player using UV sunglasses to beat big named pros such as Connor Drinan and Pratyush Buddiga have given shades a bad reputation over the years. Negreanu, a major pro player, advocated for the banning of sunglasses during poker games. Casual players do not share the same resentment toward shades as Negreanu. However, others cast suspicions over players who wear them.

Dark-tinted glasses can be a disadvantage when playing in a badly lit cardroom. While the limited view allows a player to only focus on what is in front of them, it is never an advantage if they have a hard time seeing the board while wearing sunglasses.

Use of sunglasses during poker games can be sourced to the Moneymaker, Christopher Bryan, who won a seat to the WSOP 2003 main event from an online satellite tournament. With an entry fee of only $86, he went on to the live tournament and took home the coveted 2.5 million dollars.

The moneymaker's amazing performance in the WSOP main event includes an incredible king-high bluff against Sam Farha.

Chris is popular for his sunglasses and cap, which is his signature gear ever since his WSOP debut. Many attempted to achieve the same look that Chris had during the tournament, leading to the booming popularity of shades during poker games.

Questions & Answers

Our answers to the most common questions about players using eyewear at a poker table.

Can you wear sunglasses in a casino?

Nearly every casino or cardroom allows the use of sunglasses within their establishment since it does not provide any guaranteed advantage to a player. What you cannot wear in casinos are smart glasses, which are wearable devices that contain functional cameras.  

Should you wear sunglasses when playing online poker?

No one needs to hide their eyes or achieve a striking image by wearing sunglasses during online poker games. On the other hand, shades are still valuable to players who can boost their confidence and enter a competitive mindset while wearing them.  

Why should sunglasses be banned at poker tables?

Proposals for banning shades to protect the integrity of professional poker came from Daniel Negreanu who made a case about using UV sunglasses to see mark cards. While cheating with mark cards is possible, casinos have security measures to prevent this form of cheating.

Why do poker players wear mirrored sunglasses?

Poker players use the reflection on mirrored sunglasses to hide their eyes effectively since the lenses completely block the wearer's eyes. Mirrored shades also provide a clear and comfortable view of a player's surroundings, allowing them to see the board better than regular sunglasses.   

Can other players see your hole cards if you wear mirrored sunglasses?

One common misconception about mirrored sunglasses is how the lenses can reveal a player's hole cards to other people around the table. However, professionals prevent this by simply peeking at the bent cards instead of holding their hole in front of them.

Sunglasses have their advantage and disadvantages while wearing them during poker games. When you need to hide your eyes from observant opponents or just to complete your poker persona, you are likely to get much usage out of the eyewear.  

This article was published on December 9, 2020, and last updated on February 10, 2021.