The Research

Poker Tells Research Tools: The Empatica E4

Blake Eastman

The Empatica E4 is a wristband that monitors physiological data in real time. It was initially developed to help people living with epilepsy by alerting others when seizure activity was detected. However, it has several functions that are particularly useful for studying the behavior of poker players and getting a better understanding of their physiological arousal. 

It is a relatively lightweight device which is worn on a player’s wrist and records peripheral skin temperature, electrodermal activity, and blood volume pulse, which can then be used to calculate heart rate variability. 

Below is an image of a player wearing the Empatica E4 and an example of the real-time data you can see via an iPhone app. 

The Empatica E4 was a key tool to helping us understand the nature of physiological arousal at the poker table. The practice of concealment is embedded into the game of poker, as players will often use stillness or other coping mechanisms to hide their physiological arousal during emotionally intense moments in the game. A major insight of the Beyond Tells Study is that players often use different methods to conceal different physiological states. For example, a player may become hyper still when experiencing the physiological arousal of bluffing, but might not experience this arousal or feel the need for the same level of concealment when he has a strong hand. For another player, this pattern might be reversed. The Empatica E4 allows us to pinpoint these increases in arousal and then examine them more closely via video analysis. 

The E4 has also been helpful in a practical coaching setting as well. By having players wear the band while playing, we can measure and reduce physiological arousal associated with the game. This allows us to reduce a player’s potential tells very efficiently. 

A lot of high stakes players have told me that they don’t experience a difference between bluffing and the nuts, that they are desensitized to the swings of the game. If you are one of these players, get in touch! Let’s put the E4 on you and see if that’s true! 

You can learn more about Empatica and their device here.

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Me! The guy writing this and the person you see in all of the videos. My entire professional life has gravitated around three things: Poker, Psychology, and Nonverbal Behavior. Below are some of the reasons I am uniquely qualified to discuss poker and tells.

  • I am the Founder of the Behavioral Research company The Nonverbal Group

  • I am the Founder of School of Cards and have been coaching poker for close to a decade.

  • I was an Adjunct Psychology Professor at the City University of New York.

You can learn more about me here

Beyond Tells has several components but it’s essentially divided into two big pursuits, Training and Research.

  • It’s the largest ongoing behavioral study of poker players.

  • It’s the most comprehensive training on poker tells ever created.

Watch the video to learn more