Pokertox: Botox For Gambler's Poker Face

11/20/2012 09:20 am ET | Updated Nov 20, 2012
  • David Moye Pop culture journalist, HuffPost Weird News

A doctor of aesthetic medicine in New York is taking a gamble that poker players are going to be the next big growth market for botox.

Dr. Jack Berdy has just introduced "Pokertox," a program of Botox and facial fillers designed to enhance a player's "poker face," their ability to hide any sign of facial emotion that might tip off other card players on whether they have a good or bad hand.

The process requires Berdy to consult with players about what they believe their "tells" are -- the unconscious signals they give off to other players.

"Some people might get a card they like or don't like and raise their eyebrows," Berdy told The Huffington Post. "If that's the common reaction, we can put Botox in certain areas to minimize them."

Other "tells" on the face might include a tendency to squint or curl the corners of the lips.

While some players might want to make their stiff upper lip even stiffer to avoid revealing their hand, Berdy said "Pokertox" can also be used to bluff.

"We can also put Botox in areas to make it look like the player has a 'tell' they really don't have," he said.

For Berdy, "Pokertox" was a way to combine his occupation with his love of gambling, and he's hoping to make a jackpot, especially since an application of "Pokertox" only lasts about three or four month, requiring further applications for players to keep up appearances.

But it's not a sure bet for him. So far, no one has signed up for the service since he began offering it last week, and many poker players, such as Josh Hale, are skeptical.

Hale, who has competed on the World Poker Tour, thinks the idea may be 10-to-15 years too late.

"The game has moved on from bluffs, and is more analytical these days," he told HuffPost. "Players might look at physical tells, but they are relying more on betting patterns and bet sizing."

Jay Melancon, who has been earning money playing poker for 10 years, thinks the cost of "Pokertox" limits its ultimate success.

"Plastic surgery is expensive," he told HuffPost. "You'd have to play in very high-stakes games to make it worth it, and if you have a 'tell' that is that obvious, you shouldn't be playing in those games."

Some poker pros are giving Dr. Berdy a hand in at least one regard.

"It's brilliant marketing," according to Ellen Leikind, author of the book "PokerWoman: How To Win At Love, Life And Business Using The Principles Of Poker." "However, there are lots of 'tells' that can't be covered up with Botox, such as a throbbing vein in the neck or a tendency to start chatting when you have a good hand, or reaching into your chips subconsciously."

"Pokertox" is also getting needled by other plastic surgeons, such as San Diego-based cosmetic doctor Barry Handler, who sees it as simply repackaging an old idea with a new name.

"My first thought is that it is sad an internist can't earn enough that they have to resort to doing Botox and fillers with a gimmick," Handler told HuffPost.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed Dr. Jack Berdy as a cosmetic surgeon. He is a doctor of aesthetic medicine.

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