The fingernails are a revealing source of information into the life and habits of an opponent. It is certainly easier for you to gather clues about someone’s nails if there is something irregular about them. Whether they are immaculate or the person chews them to the nub, they should tell you something.
There are four things I notice when I look at a player’s fingernails. First, are there any clues as to their profession or hobbies? Second, do they bite their nails or cuticles? Third, do they maintain them impeccably? Finally, do they shabbily maintain them but not bite them?
Profession or Hobby clues
Notice nails that have dirt, oil, or other extraneous material (maybe even poker felt) under them. This gives you a clue as to what they do for a living or for fun. Construction workers, painters, carpet layers, car mechanics or other machinists will usually have signs of their occupation on their hands and fingers.
Doctors and chefs will have hands that look clean with nails neatly trimmed or perhaps their hands are dry from constant cleaning. I will talk more about the relevance of an opponent’s job in a later section. Many poker players enjoy other games and sports as hobbies. If their fingers and knuckles are callused, is it because they are a rock climber, plumber, or a carpet layer? Other activities wear a person’s hands in different ways.
You will often know how serious a person is about a sport or hobby by how worn their hands are. The likely background for someone who works with their hands is much narrower than for someone who does not work with their hands because of the wide variety of white-collar jobs. When you ask them about what else they do for fun, you can see if their answer explains the shape of their nails. The following examples of nail care might reveal something you can use.
Impeccably maintained nails
Clearly, a man that maintains his nails and cares about his appearance is making a different statement than a woman who does the same. American culture emphasizes that women spend more time on the upkeep of aesthetics.