Wednesday, 28th February 2024 12:59
Home / The UK’s biggest Christmas ‘tells’, revealed

With the festive season already in full swing, it got us thinking how many of us bluff our way through a family Christmas in order to keep the peace. 

So, we polled the nation to discover the most common scenarios where we find ourselves hiding our true feelings; whether that’s when opening an unwanted gift, spending time with the in-laws or even struggling through a badly prepared meal. 

Here’s what we found out:

And to help you keep your eyes peeled for ‘tells’ this Christmas, here are some examples of our top Christmas ‘tells’ in action, showing just how much difference changing your body language and facial expressions to hide your ‘tells’ can make.


Prepare your poker face for those unwanted gifts

Work on your body language

Bluff your way through a bad meal


We also managed to speak to body language expert, Adrienne Carter to get her thoughts.

“Avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, hiding your face and rolling your eyes are some of the top tells that can give away how a person is really feeling,” she says. “A fake surprise and smile is often used to avoid hurting the feelings of the gift giver, especially if they are close friends or family members and you want to try and dispel any conflict or awkwardness at Christmas.

“Other festive tells include hesitation and nervousness which may come to surface when a person has a very expressive face and struggles to hide how they feel – perhaps when eating a terrible Christmas dinner!”


Learning to manage your ‘tells’ is one of the core skills needed to play poker, with the research revealing that 7 in 10 put on a poker face to mask their feelings at Christmas.

According to PokerStars Team Pro Parker Talbot, taking skills learned from real life situations can be extremely useful when heading to the poker table. Commenting on the research, Parker said: “I’m a massive fan of Christmas and I know exactly what it’s like to receive a present that I perhaps didn’t want.

“Trying to hide your emotions and reduce the amount of ‘tells’ you give off is important at the poker table.

“As a game of incomplete information, anything your opponent can learn from looking at you and the way you act is vital and can be the difference between winning and losing the hand – or the tournament!

“The biggest ‘tell’ for me – whether at the table or in real life – is when someone isn’t consistent with their actions. The quiet player who suddenly becomes all chatty, or vice versa when the livewire at the table goes into their shell. Over-selling any reaction – whether loud or quiet – is definitely something to avoid.”


Here are Parker’s top five tips for hiding your ‘tells’

  1. Take your time with decisions. Anything kneejerk will usually show exactly how you’re feeling.
  2. Calm your body, a still body is one that gives off no tells at all.  
  3. Try not to talk too much. The less you communicate, the less you risk giving away.
  4. Try not to touch your face. It’s been said that liars subconsciously touch their faces to reassure themselves, and this is often picked up on by people
  5. It can be tough to remember this all while you’re playing a hand, but try to enjoy yourself and chat to your table mates in between. We may be here to play poker and win but having fun is just as important.

About the research 

Research conducted by Opinium between 7th November and 10th November 2023. Total sample size was 2,000 General UK Respondents, aged 18+.  

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