Poker is the name of the game. It’s chic, suave, and sophisticated, and the players who participate sport a unique dress code that speaks volumes about the image they’re trying to convey. Poker is all about intentional obfuscation; players participate in sending mixed signals to one another in the hopes of bamboozling one another. First a shakedown, then a takedown. Poker psychology is an art form that comes in many guises. For the highly-skilled players among us, it’s the ultimate Houdini caper. Nothing is what it appears to be, or is it? Poker aficionados pour time and effort into playing the players as much as they play their own cards. This multi-faceted ‘life force’ is inextricably intertwined with appearances, and the image that is being portrayed. To this end, we must pay tribute to the proper attire for a poker game!
Back in the day, the quintessential poker player looked very much like the James Bond we have come to know on the big screen. Cool, calm, and collected with impeccable attire from head to toe. We’re talking Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Pierre Cardin, Henley shirts, tailored suits, including those by the Brioni Association, et al. Whether we are referencing the legendary Sean Connery and his two-button cocktail cuffs, or Roger Moore, it’s clear that Frank Foster – the designer and tailor – was hard at work crafting nattily-clad suits for these legendary heroes of the big screen. While rare in modern times, Gucci and the high-end Italian fashions of the time had a big part to play in James Bond’s accoutrements, some of which he would bring with him to the casino. Over the years, leading English tailors including Douglas Hayward, Anthony Sinclair, and Cyril Castle lent their talents to creating luxury suits for the Bond heroes.
For James Bond, the card player, the objective was always clear: Cut a fine form at the poker tables and dress for success. The Bond we have come to love and appreciate over the years is polished, shrewd, and successful at what he does. He plays his cards with all the guile, wit, and precision he can muster. He’s a chancer, and it shows in the big risks he takes as he attempts to take down the opposition. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses. Ultimately though, Bond isn’t too fazed about his performance at the poker tables – it’s not his money that he’s losing, it belongs to MI5. If poker is a means to an end for James Bond, he certainly goes the distance, extracting what he needs from the game and its players in pursuit of the bigger prize. For our hero, this is often saving the world from a maniacal villain. Think Casino Royale and Le Chiffre – the psychopathic, megalomaniac seeking global domination. Even when Bond is up against it, he is the quintessential picture of perfection. The look that that Bond projects is worlds apart from the modern-day poker players and their casual attire, sunglasses, and scruffy appearances.
Why Are Poker Players Dressed So Much More Casual Today?
Poker is a serious game played by serious players. It’s fun, but it’s real. The big-money takedowns, the player shakedowns, and the betting action rivals the biggest paydays on the planet. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is a marvel to behold, with mega millions up for grabs. Yet in this day and age, its highly improbable that you will find poker players dressed like James Bond in three-piece suits, ostrich leather shoes, and Gucci belts. Why is this? Have we lost our taste for well-dressed poker players? Or is it part of the greater obfuscation technique that poker players have become accustomed to? True to form, the world’s wealthiest poker players, and also the most talented poker players tend to dress down for these big-money events. But it’s not for the reasons that many of us believe. Poker tournaments like Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7 Card Stud and others can take an interminable amount of time to play. With so much sitting and table hopping going on at MTTs, players have learned that casual attire is far more comfortable than formal attire.
Ever since Chris Moneymaker burst onto the scene in 2003, a revolution has occurred in the world of poker gaming. We don’t see taxi does as much as we see hooded sweatshirts. Players simply don’t want other players to get anything out of their appearance. Players want to conceal their hands, their eyes, and their faces as much as they want to project confidence, or nothing at all in their demeanor. Comfort is sacrosanct. That’s why we see all manner of sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, even bandannas and headbands being worn. Sometimes, it looks like a smorgasbord of fashion faux pas more than it does a gathering of elite poker players chasing down monster parts. You will find the that the world’s premier poker players always sport a watch, dark shades, headphones/earphones, and comfortable shoes. Not the lace up leather shoes with hard soles, but sneakers with inner soles, cushioning, and air pockets. It’s all about being comfortable today, as evidenced by the attire being worn.
Guys like Doyle Brunson – a.k.a. the Texas Dolly – wear cowboy hats to perfection. It looks like he’s all gung ho and hurrah, but it’s just a way of life in Texas. He is as cold, calculated, and strategic as the best of them, because he wrote the book on poker. Other legendary poker players like Daniel Negreanu – the best Canada ever produced – preferred to wear caps and jerseys. It works for him; it always has. Then, there were other poker players who prefer to go out to the tables – all guns blazing. They like to show their arms with tight-fitting T-shirts, much different to anything you would ever see the formal James Bond character wearing. Think of popular brands like TapOut, Affliction, and Ed Hardy – those are the types of Gothic and industrial-style attire that ‘MMA-style’ poker players don at the tables.
While somewhat peculiar to see at Las Vegas poker rooms, the are many players who now believe that sporting a scarf is the proper poker attire. It’s not quite God Father style because the trench coat is missing, and there’s no Tommy Gun being packed underneath. Guys like George Danzer and Dario Minieri love to go out with these cool accessories. Scarves are great at concealing necks, but next don’t reveal too much about your poker tells, except if you breathing too heavily. It is quite a fashion faux pas to some, but readily accepted by others the poker tables today. Guys like Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey are also at the top of the game – legends of the poker scene. They tend to prefer comfortable clothing, particularly when they’re playing long sessions in the game. Caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants are commonplace. Guys like Phil Laak try to look cool with their hoodies, and for all intents and purposes, it looks like this look will last many more years on the poker scene!