Mike Caro poker word is Sunglasses

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2007) in Poker Player newspaper.

It’s the 2006 World Series of Poker and I’m in a horror film. My tournament table has temporarily been reduced to seven players. I glance at my six opponents and they’re all humanoid creatures with huge and hideous green or brown eyes. Are these the outer-space aliens you see in artists renderings based on eye-witness encounters? The similarity is haunting, and I’m definitely an “eye” witness.

Fighting the urge to tremble and flee to the security of the Doyle’s Room hospitality suite across the hall, I count the number of green- versus brown-eyed monsters. Three each. Do these comprise two separate cultures from warring planets? I warn myself: Don’t flinch, Mad Genius. Any show of weakness and they’ll surely attack.

We stare

So, I stare back, striving to convey that humans are a fierce force to be feared. On and on, I stare and they stare. Or, at least, I think they stare. It’s hard to determine, because I see no pupils midst their emotionless eyes.

My familiarity with classic literature makes me more comfortable with the green-eyes aliens, as I remember Shakespeare’s Othello with Iago speaking:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on…

Okay, so these guys are just jealous. That’s understandable, given my poker prowess. It’s the brown-eyed aliens that puzzle me most. I try to seem jovial, try to swallow my fear as I query, “You guys travel a long way?”

Mostly, they remain silent, their demeanors impenetrable, but I hear a few soft snickers from behind those expressionless faces of mystery. Then, remarkably, one of my poker opponents lowers what I then discover are really eye shades. I recognize him at once! He’s no menacing alien. He’s an old poker pal from the 1970s, still looking a bit hippie, but otherwise human.


Ah, so there’s a spy in their midst. I am reassured. I play my game, and my stacks grow. But it’s harder to play superior poker, because I can’t read their eyes.

I might as well be playing online, in that regard. After a time, I realize that none of these opponents are aliens. They’re just everyday poker players sucked into the vogue fashion of wearing enormous sunglasses to the poker table.

As I’d previously stated at seminars, facing an entire table of sunglassed opponents would constitute my greatest poker nightmare. Oh, no! It’s become reality.

And it happens that there’s a photographess behind me — or whatever the term is for a female photographer lurking annoyingly nearby.  (Don’t be shy — e-mail your complaints about sexist writing to MikeStillDoesntGetIt@caro.com.)  I signal her nearer and advise, “You better snap this picture fast. The caption should be ‘Caro’s biggest nightmare.’”

She dutifully complies, and somewhere in the archives of thousands of photos from WSOP 2006 is the evidence I need. If any reader knows how to access this shot, let me know. I’ll frame it and hang it in my office as proof that your nightmares really can come true, if you believe them strongly enough.

I understand

Where was I? Oh, I remember. I hate sunglasses in poker. There, I said it — and I’m proud. To all my friends and fans who’ve fallen into the habit of wearing sunglasses at the poker table, I fully understand. You’re being quite fashionable, and the practice helps keep you from broadcasting tells. You look cool. Carry on.

To everyone else who wears sunglasses in a poker game, I have this to say. You’re all cowardly reptiles with teeny weenies. Show some courage next time, and sit down unmasked, so I can see your eyes, just as I allow you to see mine. Fair’s fair.


Wearing sunglasses is akin to cheating. It’s an unfair advantage. Maybe that’s worded a bit too strongly, and I regret having stated it so bluntly. But there’s no way to take those words back now. Either real-world poker should be played in burqas or it should be played as originally intended — as a social stare-down, player to player, with intense scrutiny and psychological intrigue.

I believe that those who prefer poker anonymity should play online. When you venture into a brick-and-mortar poker room, you should come prepared to do face-to-face combat. So, get out your placards and your Sharpies and write this: “Ban sunglasses now!” Now let’s go picket. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


35 thoughts on “Mike Caro poker word is Sunglasses”

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  1. i like your writing, I like your cash skills. I like your final table play, your advice does not work for early stages tournaments.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Specifically, what advice doesn’t work in early stages of a tournament? If you point to the area of disagreement, I’ll be glad to comment or clarify.

  2. I dunno, Mike. If I had to sit at your table, I’d want to look like this.

  3. Amen! Players wearing sunglasses see marks on cards better also. They should be banned!

  4. Hello Mike, first off let me say thank you. Ive read several of your books including poker tells and watched your poker tell video which has helped me win thousands in tournaments. The topic is sunglasses which I have two points on, one being body language and all other possible tells not associated with eyes. Especially with amateurs, sunglasses are only an illusion in their mind if they think it will actually help them play better and that is an advantage for an experienced player I’d say. Using your fundamentals in Carlos Book of Poker Tells I find against most players does not make a difference whether sunglasses are being worn or not. Second, I find that the main thing with eyes is dialation immediately following a glance at cards which really can only be seen in lighter colored eyes so us brown eyed individuals are fine in most poker lit rooms. Yes, the quick glance at chips may be missed if the individual is wearing sunglasses but he’d make other mistakes. So being banned altogether,no, during big money tournaments, YES. Sunglasses are hype, illusion and will give a not so great player false confidence, so man up put on your poker face, sit down and look a man in his eyes and stop hiding behind a false sense of skill…but if you want to go right ahead, it will not save you from skilled players….

    1. If it’s a hype and an illusion then why would it need be banned? I think the problem is with people who try to hold to the “old ways of doing things” and not accepting that there are sub-cultures that arise constantly, with their own norms and ideas, and you need to accept that. These rants remind me of nothing more than parents complaining about their children’s choice in music, or style of clothing. It appears to me that you all are making the same, classical argument based on a need to ignore history.

  5. One of the best players in the world wears sunglasses – Phil Hellmuth. Debatable, but his results speak for themselves. Sunglasses will never be banned from poker, its even ridiculous to think so. Anyone can wear them so its a fair. Baseball caps should be banned to because you can pull them down to cover your eyes. Almost every tourn. I play in the table I am at half the players are wearing sunglasses & half are not. Everybody has their different views & playing styles. I think this makes the game even more challenging. AP

  6. if sunglasses is advantage why you and many good players don’t use it? generosity?

  7. You can wear sunglasses and use it to your advantage. But, Please don’t wear sunglasses when you are playing 2/4 limit holdem and also don’t take too much time to decide if you will call a raise when you are the last one to act and there are only 2 players in the pot.

  8. I understand your feeling Mike because you feel you have the disadvantage, and I’m happy to say that I’m glad I have that advantage over you and anyone else who hates sunglasses. Because poker is a game of small edges sunglasses gives me one of those edges. I can live with being called gutless and with a teeny weenie because my teeny weenie has produced biggie bills. It’s like you once said, “If you beat people of better skill, you’ll earn a lot of respect and a little money. I you beat people of similiar skill, you’ll earn a little respect and a lot of money.” Sunglasses have given me the edge to do the latter. You hate sunglasses. There you said it. They give me an edge and I like them. There I said it. LOL! I always appreciate that you are never afraid to express your opinion. That’s why I stay tuned in to your blog.

  9. A little story I wrote a few years ago about sunglasses.


    I am not a very good poker player. In fact, before on-line poker, I had only played poker a few times with a few friends. We played with white, red and blue plastic chips. The whites were a dime, the reds were a quarter and the blues were fifty cents, I think. A player could win or lose up to ten bucks at these games. I usually lost. Then, I gave on-line poker a try. After playing for a month or two, I’m about even. Recently winning back most of my early loses. I started out playing 10c/20c limit. I have played some 25c/50c and a few 50c/$1. I’m now ready for live casino play, I thought.

    On a recent trip to LA, to visit my Brother, he took me to a casino not far from where he lived, called Commerce Casino. Not wanting to get robbed on my trip, I used my credit card for all purchases. My Brother advised me to buy a pair of sunglasses, so the other players couldn’t read my eyes. I bought the darkest ones they had. I didn’t want anyone reading my eyes.

    I boldly walked up to the poker room desk and asked about playing poker. “Limit or no limit, Hold’em, Omaha, Seven stud, hi/lo, Horse———? “ “Whoa” I said to the lady, “I know seven card and Hold’em some, but forget about all the others”. “What limit?” she asked. I was on vacation and was going to splurge a little bit. “1/2 no limit”, I said. “Buy in?” she asked. “Huh?” “What do you mean?” “Do you want the minimum, maximum or anything in between for your buy in?” she asked. “I better start with the minimum”. I said, not so boldly. “You do take credit cards?” I asked. “Sure, we take all the major credit cards”, she said. After running my credit card, she gave me a rack of chips and pointed out the table where I should go. I sit down at the table in one of the 4 empty seats. Most of the other players at the table had lots more chips than I did. Some of them had huge stacks.

    One fellow had on a hooded sweatshirt and he had a mountain of chips. Every time he entered a pot he would close the hood so no one could see his eyes. Everyone called him, Unabomber or something like that. I thought they had caught that guy.

    The player across the table from me called Unabomber a donk. In fact he called everyone a donk or jerks and proclaimed that he was the best player in the world. All the other players called him ‘the mouth’. I could see why.

    A kid seated next to him was telling him that he was due to blow up soon. I say kid, because that’s what the other players called this player. ‘Kid Poker’.

    Another player quacked like a duck. He kept licking his lips and making odd bets. “Quack” he would say when he put his chips in, or “double quack, quack”. I never knew what he was betting but the other players seem to know.

    Another player had a strange betting habit and would stand up from the table and wave his arms at his chips, trying to blow them in while shouting “ALL IN”, “ALL IN”, “I got best hand”, “ALL IN”, with a South American accent. Once, he just called a bet and the player next to him went all in saying, “All you can eat baby”. They called that player Scotty. I don’t know why, he didn’t look Scottish to me. He looked more Asian to me.

    Then there was the player that the other players called Moneymaker. Why I don’t know, because he had less chips than me.

    Another player they called the Mad Genius. He looked like an old hippie and did crazy stuff all the time. He was multiplying square roots or something. He was certified, I think.

    A new player arrived at the table and you would think that he was God. An old man walking with a cane, wearing a white cowboy hat. A few of the players stood up as if to help him to his seat but seemed to hesitate doing so. I soon found out why. Kid Poker told me he was the godfather. The godfather of poker. After he sat down, some of the players started calling him Dolly. I could tell the other players were scared of him, because every time he bet, the other players would fold.

    I wish, I could say that I woke up here but I didn’t. I wish I could say that I won in that poker game but I didn’t. My chips lasted less than an hour. I wish a lot of things but most of all, I wish that the lady on the desk knew that when I said 1/2 no limit that I meant $1.00/$2.00 no limit. She had sat me at a $100/$200 no limit table. My wife almost killed me when we got the $10,000 credit card bill. Darn those dark sunglasses.

    Stan Jett

  10. Well for me if the shades are dark I could not see well anyway so I don’t go in for shades but they can and do and it does not bother me. Like you said almost like playing on line however eyes are not the only tell so I filter out those and try to watch more things to help me decide to fold them or hold them.

  11. I find the typical Sunglasses person to be young-male-hyper-aggressive-loose-as-a-goose-and-about-to-lose-his-stack-2-me!

    Because i will trap him!

  12. Hey Mike!

    1st: a photographer is someone whose job it is to take photographs. Whyever would you have thought to attach a gender designator to it? Yes, you do get it. Stop being a disingenuous twit. (Whom I admire and enjoy reading – still – stop it.)

    2nd: Y’all need to stop whining about the sunglasses. Or else you have to object to Doyle tilting down his hat brim, Eskimo’s wildman beard thicket, anyone with their hands covering any part of their face. Frozen expressions. Ken disappearing inside his jacket.

    Fossilman without his specs?!!!


    Things change. Get over it.

    STILL luvu tho’

    Lis<–does not wear sunglasses – doesn't care who does…

    1. Hi, Lis —

      Your first point. I hear you. I can probably be persuaded to stop being disingenuous about political correctness when they stop dictating it to me.

      Your second point. Good thoughts! Actually, Doyle tilts his hat down so the “Doyle’s Room” logo will get photographed. He’s told me this several times.

      Still “luvu,” too. Thanks for your comment.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

      1. Mike,

        I can’t imagine you allowing anyone to dictate a damn thing to you! LOL! I’m a woman who grew up in the 50s and 60s, right through the latest “movement” in feminism. So here’s the old question: “How would you feel if, for every job designator, there was a special ending that indicated that the person doing the job was Jewish?” (or black – or an atheist – or whatever) That thing you so easily denigrate with the toss-off “political correctness” is part of what made it possible for Phil Ivey to have been allowed in a casino to play at he same table with white folks, instead of only being allowed to park their cars. It also irritates me on occasion, but it’s still a good thing basically.


        You know, they work to the detriment of the wearer, quite often, I have found. They are like ostriches with their heads in the sand, they think no one can see them. I remember one guy, Mr Sunglass-Frozen Face I called him. But every time he was bluff-raising (often) his lips would purse. He wasn’t aware, he was so safe behind his shades. My daughter and I both three-bet re-bluffed him off several nice pots. I have more of these – all involving sunglass-wearing players. Maybe you should rejoice in the trend!


  13. All interesting comments on an often debated subject. I have played with and without shades, against opponents with and without, and think that it is one more piece of info that you can use to analyze their approach to the game. Most of the top players I see on tv seem to do quite well without them.

    Have any of the pro circuits/tourneys, i.e. wsop, wpt etc. actually seriously considered a ban yet?

    1. Hi, Brian —

      I know some TV poker shows have banned sunglasses.

      I don’t think any major poker tournaments have banned them — at least not in the early rounds. It’s possible that some have done so for final-table telecasts. Maybe someone else can supply a better answer.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  14. Mike,

    I do agree that a lot of sunglass wearing poker players are hiding more than their eyes, (read: insecurity, fear, etc) where would banning them stop? Turtle necks? Hooded sweatshirts? Long sleves? Clothes altogether?????? (I heard an urban legand of a man from Nantucket that has an uncomfortably odd tell when he had a big hand!??!)

    I say, let them where their sunglasses, as it may expose more than it conceals!!

    lord bk

    1. Hi, Lord BK —

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      Your points are interesting and valid. But we always need to worry about taking regulation to the extreme, in poker and in life. Rules and laws should deal with what’s absolutely necessary and nothing more.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  15. I’m jumping on the “it’s not unfair” bandwagon. Except when it is. Doyle and Durrrr have both commented on TV recently (yeah – I watch too much. Sue me.) that they _are_ a problem. Not because of the difficulty of reading past them, but because they can be used by card sharps.

    There’s an old trick of using a busy deck, and marking it in such a way you could never see it. Put on a pair of colored lenses, though, and they filter out all the clutter. I seem to remember Cap’n Crunch using a similar gag and calling it free spy gear in the box.

    OK so that exact thing’s not going to happen in a b&m casino. Or, if it were to, you’d be completely screwed as the house could do much better than that. But it remains entirely possible that a sharp puts a big thumb print in some kind of dust that becomes visible at 15 degrees through polarized lenses.

    Having glasses on isn’t cheating, because anyone can do it. Banning glasses harms no human person*, but may harm cheaters. Blank/win is 2nd best to win/win, end of transmission.

    * But I have sensitive eyes and my doctor says … OK there may be a practical problem as far as the disabilities act goes for the odd person. Solution: remember ‘no smoking sections?’ How about a ‘no fashion model section.’

    1. Hi, Thomas —

      Chemically marking cards through use of daubs has been a problem going way back to the 1960s and before. I’ve worked closely with casino surveillance and seen many decks so marked.

      Often the markings are entirely invisible unless viewed through glasses or contact lenses that are specifically developed to see that one type of daub. We’ve had cases of different players in the same game using this method to mark cards, but the markings of one were not known to the other, because each was using a different daub.

      Decades ago, casinos developed filters to spot the different markings and the practice ebbed. Later, beginning 20 or so years ago, a much more dangerous daub was created, called “flash” or “white flash.”

      You didn’t need any special glasses or contacts to read it. Instead, you needed days, weeks, or even months of training your eyes to see it quickly. Even though casino poker is much better protected today, I’m sure flash is still used on occasion and is probably something to be vigilante about in large-limit home games.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  16. I thought it was rather silly as well, Mike. But I spend all of my time at the table watching the other players for tells, as Professor Caro taught me. I found that opponents play more cautiously when they know I’m watching. But if they can’t see MY eyes, they don’t know if I am looking at them, and they relax more. They make more mistakes and I try to use that to my advantage.

    1. Hi, Dan —

      I agree that sunglasses could sometimes be useful in the way you describe.

      As a point of interest, you’ll often elicit more tells if players know you’re looking at them. Sometimes the scrutiny makes them uncomfortable and, in their desperation to deceive you, they help you see the truth about their hands.

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  17. Sunglasses have always stricken me as being fairly pretentious. It’s as if people are just trying to ‘look the part’, when surely it makes more sense to do the opposite and act like a noob. At my local casino, I’ve noticed that the few good players I’ve come across (who are rare) are people who don’t wear sunglasses and they don’t sit trying to look thoughtful when making a decision. They just get it over with or act like they’re reckless and don’t care. Anyway nice article.

  18. Mike, wearing sunglasses isn’t unfair as you can wear them, too. Same argument goes for the deepstack idiots who don’t like shortstackers. Everyone plays whatever game it takes to maximize their perceived advantage. Being an expert on tells, one would think you’d capitalize on new tells and/or manipulate your opponents into giving off tells. Better yet, the best advice for those who don’t like sunglasses is to switch back to playing limit games/tournies where your entire stack isn’t dependent on your read of a guys eyes.

    1. Hi, Maverick —

      Thanks for leaving your first comment, and welcome to Poker1

      I appreciate your opinion.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

    2. Hi, Maverick —

      I agree, by the way, that the practice isn’t actually unfair. That’s why — as soon as I blurted those words — I immediately said that I regretted them. But, at that point, there was no way to take them back.

      Everyone can wear sunglasses, so I guess it’s fair. But it changes the nature of poker, as I understand it.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

      1. Hi Mike, I understand your opinion on sunglasses but I
        have a different angle on wearing them. Most people wear them to keep someone from reading them. I wear them to hide what I’m looking at which is other players in a hand. If someone sees you stareing at them so intently they will stop acting naturally which is part of my read. Also you of all people know the face and eyes are the least reliable part of the human body to read from. Thanks for your books and contribution to poker, keep up the good work.

  19. I agree Mike. When I sit at a live table with these sunglass wearing Ipod blaring aliena, I just assume that they have watched too much TV poker, and wait for the right time to take down the pots.

    1. Hi, Bruce —

      Your observation that you see a lot of sunglasses on TV is right on the money. I think the practice is particularly bad in that arena, because viewers what to see dramatic moods and emotions conveyed by the players’ eyes.

      Sunglasses make poker less appealing for the audience.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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