by Diane McHaffie
In poker, “going on tilt” means playing emotionally and recklessly. The cause is often one or more bad beats. But boredom can also lead to going on tilt, with the same devastating results, if you don’t learn to manage those moments.
Patience is an important element of poker play. But impatience frequently accompanies boredom, which can prompt impulsive action and disastrous outcomes. So, today we’re going to learn about boredom management. Chat. Full-handed poker tables can often prove tedious, but you shouldn’t allow it to affect your play. Yes, many of your decisions will merely be to fold, due to either your position or the disappointing quality of your cards. But, that shouldn’t determine the quality of your play. Good decisions are still a must! Flops will come and go, frequently without your participation. Use that down time wisely.
For instance, let’s say the card deities aren’t being kind to you, your attention is wavering. Stop! You can still be an active player, even after you’ve folded your cards. That’s right! If the player to your left isn’t involved in the pot, buddy up to him. He’s the one who usually acts after you do, giving him a positional advantage. You’ll make him less motivated to maximize that advantage, if you’re friendly.
Besides appearing to be interested in your opponent and making him feel important, it also gives you an opportunity to gather information for future use. You see, by establishing a relationship with him, it hopefully ensures he’ll be less inclined to pounce on you the next time you’re in a pot together.
Information. I enjoy people-watching. When I’m not involved in a pot, it’s a perfect chance to observe my opponents. I watch for their little idiosyncrasies, like tics, habits, sighs, humming, or distinct mannerisms that may reveal tells. How are they playing, loose or tight, reckless, or reserved? Do they call frequently or bluff a lot? How do they play weak hands? These bits of information may prove profitable.
Quality. Unlike the poker players you see on TV, you’ll soon discover that making risky, breath-holding bets or calls will be a rare occurrence for you. Sorry, real life poker play isn’t always that exciting! No, in fact, too often you’ll merely sit quietly watching the action spin around you, uninvolved. But, it could prove educational. Perhaps one of the battling players in the current pot has chosen to play puny cards, enabling you to witness the result of hasty decisions. Maybe that player was bored?
Irritating. It can be irritating when a bored player suddenly decides to alleviate his boredom by becoming chatty. It’s annoyingly distracting to everyone. Chatty Charlie is like a bee buzzing irritably around your head. You just want to smack him! Charlie may turn to alcohol. If he’s a happy imbiber, this could prove profitable. But if he’s a mean drunk, watch out! The game could turn nasty quickly.
Regardless, Charlie is going to change the tone of the game immediately. Everyone’s decisions will be affected. Unfortunately, he actually could reap a nice reward, whether from chattiness or too much drinking, if his opponents overreact to the annoyance and play poorly.
But if you play sensibly against Charlie, his risky moves will send chips scurrying from his stacks to yours. So, take advantage of opponents who melt down from boredom, while never melting down yourself.
Loose. Use lax time, when you’re not involved in a pot, to hone your image. Opponents prefer loose players, but since you’re selective about hands you play, you may be giving the illusion you’re a tight player. Here’s an opportunity to casually remark that you actually are capable of playing tighter than your sister claims! This psychological trick gives opponents the impression you’re typically a loose player. After all, your sister said so. Many players listen to iPods during tournaments, possibly to assuage their boredom, but couldn’t this prevent them from hearing the nuances and tells of their opponent’s voices? More important, this mental distraction may impede their perceptions, causing them to mistake moves made by opponents, with tragic results. Personally, I like to hear the chatter circulating around me. It can prove informative and profitable. However you deal with boredom, make it work for you, not against you.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at email@example.com.