Why do Poker Players Wear Headphones?

Dennis Clarke
5 May 2023
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Do poker players wear headphones to kill boredom during long poker tournaments? Do they wear headphones to increase their focus? Is it a strategic move or a way to cheat? Is it really about the music, or maybe a way to cancel the noise?

In this article, we are going to discuss poker players wearing headphones and how they are looked upon among fellow players who don’t wear any headphones and the casinos hosting poker games.

Wearing Headphones to Increase Focus

The first argument many poker players wearing headphones will tell you is that they wear headphones to increase their focus at the poker table. At first glance, there can definitely be some truth in this, as many people listen to background music while performing tasks that require sustained attention.

However, study shows that there are no real benefits to music listening when it comes to productivity. Quite literally, the whole wearing headphones to increase focus is only valid between the ears. Besides, it actually reduces focus, according to some professional poker players.

When a player checks by word of mouth, for instance, instead of tapping the table, players wearing headphones and listening to music often won’t hear. Another similar situation arises whenever a player calls with, let’s say, a 100-pound chip but says they only call the bet with 50 pounds. Overall, it can create a lot of confusion.

Wearing Headphones as a Strategic Move

Another argument professional or amateur poker players may have is that it is a strategic move by them. They don’t want to be distracted by other players and be able to read their opponents without their opponents knowing so, especially in combination with sunglasses.

However, as strategic as this might sound, it actually comes with a few disadvantages. The first one is that the player wearing headphones can definitely read other players (partially) unnoticed but cannot engage with others either.

By not being able to talk to other players or hear them speak, one can miss out on good tells. Added to this, it can be considered rude by both the dealer and other players not to participate in any conversations and have a friendly vibe going on.

Although it can certainly be considered cheating to wear headphones, players that do so also miss out on valuable information. As poker is a game of information, they also put themselves at a disadvantage by wearing headphones.

Wearing Headphones to Cancel Noise

Another reason many poker players wear headphones is to cancel noise. Most poker tournaments can last a couple of hours, and these players don’t want to drown in the ambient noise of chip shufflers and other generic ‘’casino sounds.’’

They don’t really want to block other players from engaging with them, but they just don’t want to fall asleep or play badly because fatigue is getting the best of them.

Even when gambling online, where there may not be physical casino noises, players still opt to wear headphones for noise cancellation. Online poker can be an intense and mentally demanding activity, and players often find themselves engrossed in the game for long periods.

Do Casinos Allow You to Wear Headphones?

Yes, you are perfectly allowed to wear headphones in a casino. However, it is considered polite to remove them when speaking with any of the casino’s staff members. Other poker players may also kindly ask you to remove them. In this case, it is up to you whether to listen to them and obey their demand or not.

Should You Wear Headphones During a Poker Game?

Of course, it is entirely up to you whether to wear headphones during a poker game. The need to do so varies across poker players. If you are one of those poker players that cannot stand the boredom after a couple of hours playing poker, it could be a way to stay focused.

However, keep in mind that when wearing headphones, you cannot hear your opponents, which puts you at a slight disadvantage as you can get to know a lot about them by listening to them talk.

Some poker players give clear tells when they speak, and you won’t pick these up when wearing headphones. Additionally, you won’t be able to chit-chat during the game, which some players find rude as poker is a people’s game where a part of the entertainment comes from player interactions.

What About Wearing Sunglasses During a Poker Game?

Sunglasses and poker are probably virtually inseparable. Ask a casual passer-by how they would describe a poker player, and there is a 99% chance that the sunglasses will be mentioned. But why do poker players actually wear sunglasses? Many poker players wear sunglasses ‘because it’s supposed to be like that’.

But the real reason for wearing sunglasses while playing poker is so that your opponent can’t read you. ‘Reading’ means that opponents do not see whether you are bluffing or whether you have a strong hand. After all, things can be read from the eyes. For example, looking away is a sign of weakness, and if the eyes turn to the top left means someone is lying.

In addition, poker players use sunglasses so that they can observe opponents intensively without the opponents noticing. If opponents don’t know who or what you’re observing, they can’t adapt to it.

Old-school poker players like Doyle Brunson, Dan Harrington, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and many others don’t wear sunglasses. They think it’s not part of poker and that it isn’t in the spirit of the game.

Final word

So, although headphones are allowed in casinos and poker rooms, they can hurt your poker gameplay significantly. Besides, some other players may not like the fact that you’re wearing them. However, it is your own choice whether to wear headphones or not and if your poker skills increase whilst wearing them, we see no reason not to.

Author Dennis Clarke

As a vivid poker and casino fan, I became a full-time iGaming copywriter to write about what I genuinely love: gambling. I am now a copywriter at UKCasino.com, Casinogrounds.com, and Casinoscores.com