The Do and Do Nots of Talking at the Poker Table

Talking at the poker table is the natural thing to do, but always be aware of the information you are both receiving and giving away.

Poker is a social game played with friends or a complete stranger. Few other games give you the chance to meet people from such a wide circle of backgrounds. Talking to your opponents and finding out more about them makes playing poker more enjoyable. However, talking to your opponents can give you an advantage against them or tip the scales in their favor.

Verbal tells given off through talking are more common in recreational players than seasoned pros. This is the case of all poker tells; it is one of the reasons pros are harder to read. We have all sat with an opponent who never shuts up talking, only to clam up during a hand completely. Ask yourself why the motormouth has suddenly gone mute. Because they have a hand they are serious about, is usually the answer.

Lying about hands is another common table talk tell. Players who have sat folding for an eternity will often say something along the lines of “Oh well, I suppose I better play a hand at some point.” They have a monster almost always in this spot. Why announce to the table that you have been card dead or are super tight? It does not make sense. They attempt to convince you they are playing a pretty hand because it is the best they have seen all day. Do not be fooled!

Talking To Extract Information

Some players are experts at talking to extract information. They lull opponents into a false sense of security and use the info gathered to their advantage. Humans are sociable creatures who love chatting.

Put yourself in the following situation. You are in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold ’em event at the World Series of Poker and have struck up a conversation with an opponent. You talk about your job, family, and poker story because it is the natural thing to do. It makes your time at the table go quicker, but your talking may have given off clues about your skill, experience, etc.

For example, you may reveal you usually play $0.25/$0.50 cash games online or that you typically play $50-$100 tournaments away from the WSOP. Your opponent now knows you are at the more recreational end of the scale when it comes to players. They also know you are playing way above your bankroll in this tournament and, therefore, are probably hoping to simply cash. They can use this information about you to bully you off pots, especially around the bubble.

Furthermore, you may reveal you have a well-paid day job, which means min-cashing is not on your agenda. Your raises may receive less respect because they know you are playing for fun or the biggest prizes.

Subjects To Avoid

It is up to you what you talk about when at the tables so long as you are aware of the information you give away. However, there are some subjects you should tend to stay away from if you plan on talking to your opponents.

Few subject matters are as polarizing as politics and religion. These subjects produce strong emotions because people’s beliefs are extremely important to them. It is best to avoid potentially falling out with someone for the sake of simply talking.

Avoid chastizing opponents for their seemingly lousy play. Everyone pays their money so they can play the game how they wish. Telling a playing their play is terrible has no positives attached to it. You either make the person feel bad; they realize they are not as good as they think they are, so leave the game, or take your comments on board and improve their skills. All three are bad for you and the rest of the table.

Finally, never chat or discuss an ongoing hand. Talking while someone is trying to win a pot is a massive no-no in poker. It is rude and can put opponents off their game. You would not want it happening to you, so do not do it to someone else.

Brad Johnson

You name the game, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Brad has either played it or placed a wager on it! Brad calls himself a natural gambler, and someone who gains as much enjoyment from writing about the crazy game of poker as he does playing it.


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