Wearing sunglasses at the poker table continues to be the fastest growing trend in the game. Walk into any casino poker room in Las Vegas, or any local bar with a free poker game, and you will see 30-40% of the players wearing their favorite sunglasses while playing. Some players wear them to hide their own eyes. Others wear them to have that “intimidation factor” when they are staring down their opponent. WSOP Main Event champion Greg Raymer wears his trademark “dinosaur eyes” glasses because it simply is distracting to have those ugly things looking right at you.
I know from my regular play that most amateur players will immediately glance at their chip stack after seeing a big hand when they look at their cards, so hiding their eyes can immediately solve this habit. Besides that simple tell, glasses can also hide blinking patterns, the wide-eyed look of surprise when you see A-A, and numerous other things other players can see by watching you. And hey, for a guy like me it can hide the fact that I’m checking out the hot blond on the other end of the table.
With this in mind, I decided to test out several different brands of glasses to see which actually help my game, and which ones hurt it. The differences were incredible.
I judged the glasses on seven factors:
- Price (and what I would really pay for these)
- Visibility of my eyes
- Visibility of the hole cards
- Visibility of the rest of the table
I then selected three of the more popular brands from the internet, along with a couple of pair of average sunglasses that you can buy in any WalMart or Target. We can call this last category simply “Cheapo’s”.
One of the first factors that stand out is price. I tried glasses ranging from $9.99 from Target to $169 from Blue Shark Optics. Being a firm believer that price doe’s not always equal quality, I knew I was going to have fun with the comparisons.
To begin with, in the interest of brevity, I am immediately going to throw out the cheapo’s from the discount stores. They are fine for wearing at the beach, or while driving, but they have absolutely no place at the poker table. These sunglasses are designed to reduce light, and most poker rooms are already dark. The average player, wearing the average cheap pair of sunglasses, regularly misreads suits, and mistakes the 4 for an Ace. A recipe for disaster when there is money on the line.
Now that we’ve established that poker eyewear must be designed for poker play, I began the true comparison. I had three sunglass wearing friends order a product from each company, and wear them while playing poker for a week. They then switched glasses for another week, and switched one more time for the final week. The final reviews and recommendations from each participant were consistent and unanimous. Royal Eyewear has received some publicity as the eyewear worn and recommended by David “Devilfish” Ulliot. At $79.00, their glasses came in at the midrange of price. They make only one model, which is a narrow wrap around frame. Their lenses are coated with an anti-reflective film, and work well in low light.
Our reviewers all had the same criticism of the Royal Eyewear though.
1. Lack of choice in frame styles. Every face is different, and different players prefer different styles. Royal’s decision to limit their offering to one style certainly reduces costs, but provides no user choices.
2. Lack of quality in the one frame style they do offer. The frame is a molded plastic with no enhancements, other than the company logo on the temple. A simple padding around the nose would have gone a long way to increase the comfort also.
3. While the lenses do increase the light to the user, this increase comes with one huge setback: The wearer’s eyes can be clearly seen by the other players. Royal Eyewear advertises that their lens coating provides 98% shielding of your eyes, but this turned out to be in the amount of the eye the frame covers, and not the actual visibility of the eye itself from across the table.
To be perfectly honest, I do not rate these glasses any higher than the cheap glasses you can get from Target or WalMart, and Royal charges $79.
Poker Armor eyewear received somewhat higher grades, simply because they had more choices, and a cheaper price. With three frame styles, all at $58.00, their appeal could certainly be understood. However of the three styles they offer, only one (The Secret Agent) was even deemed wearable by the reviewers. The other two were rejected by the reviewers before the order was placed. This being said, the quality simply wasn’t there to support a $58 price tag. As with Royal Eyewear, the reviewers all had one high mark of praise, and some consistent complaints about the Secret Agent.
The praise was in simple comfort. The Secret Agent is a lightweight frame that is comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Beyond that though, our review panel of all three gave a thumbs down to the product based on one resounding reason: They simply didn’t protect the eyes from view. The lens was too small, and did not extend to the sides of the eyes. And quite honestly, you can see right through them from across the table. The light enhancement was decent enough, but not enough to warrant recommending the glasses.
Lastly, we took a look at Blue Shark Optics. One of the first things you notice when you visit their website is the choices. At this time, Blue Shark is offering eight different styles to choose from. Two of these are being phased out, but the remaining six are in a variety of stylish frames that are sure to satisfy the needs of any customer.
The lens on the Blue Shark glasses all have what the company calls Crystalion-3 coating. This coating not only increased light to the user, but was virtually impenetrable from the outside. You simply could not detect eye movement when looking at the wearer. Our reviewer’s chose the Viper Shark, simply to be somewhat consistent in comparing the glasses, as this was the closest style to match the two from the other companies. While we based our review off of the Viper Shark, the true poker enthusiast would probably be more interested in the MP3 Tiger Shark. 1GB of storage built into the frame, with ear buds perfect placed to allow any player to sit for up to 5 hours jamming to their favorite tunes without the wires associates with an iPod. And if you don’t like the frames offered by Blue Shark, you can even send in a frame you do like and they will custom fit a lens (prescription or not) for those frames.
Another strong selling point of the Blue Shark brand is the availability of prescription eyewear. Simply fill out the order form, and provide a copy of your current eyewear prescription, and the company will make a pair of medical quality sunglasses for any user. I personally wear bifocals, and I have long been relegated to either my normal prescription sunglasses, cheap clip-ons, or having a poker film applied to my glasses. It is nice to see at least one poker eyewear company understand the needs of their customers and provide this service.
While the Blue Shark Optics prices were higher than the rest, the quality and effectiveness of their product certainly warranted the price difference. Their frames are made of high quality acetate and not cheap plastic. Starting at $129 ($169 for the MP3 Tiger Shark), the Blue Shark product should be seen as an investment rather than an expense. These glasses can not only be worn at the poker table, but are perfect for night driving, as well as to reduce eyestrain for computer users. Sure, you might look silly wearing sunglasses while multi-tabling at Full Tilt, but your eyes will thank you for thinking of them. Blue Shark even offers free shipping and a money back guarantee. And professional players like John “The Razor” Phan, Young Phan and Kathy Liebert are winning while wearing them, which is more than can be said for the other brands.
So in the end, the three reviewers were all unanimous in their choice of Blue Shark Optics as their preference. The slight increase in cost was more than offset by the comfort, quality, and multi-functionality of the product. The bottom line is that Blue Shark Optics deliver what they promise, with a lens that, unlike the others, completely hides the eyes. And in the end, as we were comparing them for poker play, the others weren’t even close. So when you are ready to step up your game, I highly recommend you do so in Blue Shark Optics eyewear. Professional poker players across the spectrum have made them their personal choice, and I believe that you should too.
Now I know this is coming across like a commercial for Blue Shark Optics, but I want to make it clear that we conducted a comparison with real players, in real money games. The players weren’t told which brand they should choose, but they all chose Blue Shark Optics anyway. Since I have long felt that Blue Shark Optics were the best on the market, I was very happy to see the three players make the same decision while wearing them under real tournament conditions.
This article was actually written by me back in October. At that time I had only a short time to decide on the eyewear I’d personally choose. Since then I have been wearing my River Shark prescription eyewear from Blue Shark Optics while playing poker and golf, driving, and any other time I need sunglasses, and I can say even today that our choice in the preferred eyewear has not changed. I still highly recommend them above any other eyewear company, and hope that you check them out.