Poker players are an interesting bunch.
As rational as they may think they are, they also tend to be quite superstitious.
This can be observed in all things they do to bring luck to their side. (Such as having a lucky charm, for example.)
Somewhere in between fact and superstition, there are things like personology, and pseudosciences in general.
Could they be of any use when playing poker? Or are they a total waste of one’s time?
1 – What Are Pseudosciences
Pseudosciences are practices that haven’t been found legitimate by the scientific method.
Another way to say this is that they’re bodies of knowledge that haven’t been objectively verified. Or at least not yet.
It’s interesting to observe how some popular forms of pseudoscience were, at one point, taken quite seriously.
The biggest example of this is astrology.
Many people today see it as total nonsense. But its status centuries ago was like that of astronomy today.
The same goes for alchemy. This was a legitimate form of chemistry in many people’s eyes.the
In fact, both practices are still highly regarded by many.
It’s just that not everyone who practices astrology or alchemy today is worried about their scientific status. And why would they? So many other things have been called pseudosciences as well.
There’s a page on Wikipedia just for that, by the way. And it’s quite a surprising list if you ask me.
Sure, astrology and alchemy are there. But so are neuro-linguistic programming, psychoanalysis, and even the technical analysis in finances.
Ironically, one topic that it’s not on that Wikipedia page is physiognomy.
Although, nowadays, it usually goes by the name of personology.
2 – What Can We See in a Face?
Physiognomy, in whatever name it’s called, goes back at least to Ancient Greece.
In a nutshell, this is the belief that one’s physical characteristics, especially one’s face, say a lot about his/her personality.
According to those who study physiognomy, everything about your face means something.
Seriously, everything: the distance between your eyes, the shape of your nose, the size of your lips, the width of your face…
As I’ve said, people have studied this over centuries. And it’s come in and out of fashion countless times.
One of its most famous revivals came in the early 20th century.
Almost a century ago, 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.
It became quite a big deal, which led him to establish a personology foundation in California.
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.
According to her, it can help you in countless ways.
One of the most important ones would be finding the right career for you.
Since I myself have never tried it, I don’t know how accurate those analyses would be.
But I know of at least 2 things that give this new physiognomy revival at least some credibility.
3 – From Biology to AI
In recent times, it’s been suggested that our hormones have an influence on certain physical traits.
Testosterone levels, in particular, seem to be noticeable in a man’s whole body.
Those with a more squared jaw, for example, are said to have higher levels of this hormone. And the same would go for those whose ring finger is much larger than the index finger.
Apart from biology, another ally of personologists has been the development of face recognition systems.
The advances in this type of technology are making it easier to find patterns in people’s faces.
Consequently, it’s making it easier for personologists to test their theories.
But is it enough to make this body of knowledge more credible than others?
4 – Personology and Other Studies
Those in the news media know that people are fascinated by the kind of stuff that personologists study.
This is easier to observe when we take a look at how people react to some other pseudosciences.
One example here is graphology, which is the study of a person according to his/her handwriting.
Another is chiromancy, which is the study of one’s hands.
For some, even your sleep position can mean something. (They haven’t invented a cool name for it yet.) But personology (or physiognomy) has an advantage over all those other studies.
Personologists don’t need to ask anyone to write in cursive. (Many schools don’t even teach kids how to do it anymore.)
They also don’t need to have any prior information about someone.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to reveal your birthday or your sleep position.
They’ll be able to give their verdict about you just the same.
5 – What’s in It for Poker Players?
Ok, so what’s the type of information we can get with the study of personology?rea
Basically, anything that has do with one’s character.
This is an important distinction for poker pros to have in mind.
We all make guesses about others based on their ethnicity, clothes, gender, age, and so on.
These and other things are all considered types of cold reading. That is, they are broad generalizations based mostly on social constructs.
For example, if you see an older man at your poker table, your first reaction will be to think that he’s less aggressive than a younger guy.
If you’re up against a Scandinavian, you might think he’s loose-aggressive.
When facing a guy from China, you’re inclined to think that he’s a math whizz.
The study of personology would lead you to make some of those kinds of inferences.
With the exception that, if what Tickle and others say is true, your level of accuracy would be much higher. And potentially quite lucrative, if we are to believe what she says about someone’s nose. According to her:
“You have to really look at that from the side profile.”
Ok. And then?
Well, here’s an analysis of a particular type of nose:
The Roman-shaped nose is a bossy nose. It likes to be in charge. They are also very aware of costs.
And here’s what she says about another, quite different type:
The ski-jump nose is a monetary carefree nose, one that likes to spend all their money without a care about saving for tomorrow.
Does it mean that, at first, it’d be easier to bluff someone who has a nose like Tom Cruise?
I have no idea. Because, until now, I always thought those characteristics depended mostly on one’s ethnicity.
In any case, there’s at least 1 variable we should always bring to our analyses of other players. And it’d be wise to at least talk about it before reaching any type of verdict on someone.
6 – Body Language
Body language is the type of information that depends on your perceptions about someone’s reactions.
At a poker table, we call those reactions tells.
Some tells can be faked, for sure. And some players are prone to do just that. (They’re “actors”, as Mike Caro says.)
But, with practice, you learn to distinguish what reactions are more reliable. And sometimes one single tell you have on someone is enough for you to make a lot of money.
If you’re a live poker player, I don’t need to say much more about the importance of body language.
So, what’s my point in mentioning it in this article?
The thing is: your cold reading must be based on solid principles. And it’s up to you to decide if that’s the case of personology or any other pseudosciences.
There’s 1 last thing to be said about personology.
Even if it doesn’t turn out to be a reliable source of information, it’s important to notice that it’s generated stereotypes. And, over thousands of years, people have internalized those stereotypes. (Consciously or not.)
That’s how people become racists, misogynists, and so on. In fact, even those who are the victims of stereotypes internalize them.
After all, they live in the same society as everyone else. So, studying any type of cold reading is an excellent way for you to raise your self-awareness.
Because you start to become aware of things you’ve been led to believe all your life.
Once you identify a certain pattern, you may feel that same reaction you always did.
The difference is that now you’ll be able to disidentify from it. As you see, it becomes a matter of choice.
Nelson Mandela once said that if you can be taught how to hate, you can be taught how to love.
In this second case, though, you’ll have to be your own teacher.
At least until you’re able to find one whom you find to be trustworthy.