by Ashley Adams
I’m a big fan of talking at the table for two good reasons: it induces action, and lightens the mood.
Inducing Action. I was playing $1-$2 no-limit early on a Sunday afternoon at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino. I started with a lowly pair of fives. But the pot was only raised to $6 before the flop with a few callers in front of me. I called and was rewarded with a five and two deuces on the flop. The initial bettor bet $20. I called, and everyone else folded. When a four hit the turn, he bet $35. I had his $200 stack covered. I wanted it all, and decided to set a rather deep hook. I raised to $105. He thought a long time, musing out loud that he should have raised more before the flop to get me off of the 6-3 he thought I started with.
I really wanted him to call, though he seemed ready to fold— literally lifting up his cards as if to toss them—but then putting them down. Was there anything I could do to induce a call? I said to him, a bit aggressively, “I started out ahead of you,” although I did not really believe this to be true, since I put him on a premium pair. Nevertheless, I figured that it might be just enough to goad him into calling.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what he did. A blank hit the river. He checked, and I bet the $90 or so that remained in his stack. He called. I turned over my full house, and he revealed aces. He was upset, and said, “Well, you weren’t ahead before the flop—only after the flop.” I conceded that he was right— hoping it would ease the sting of the loss. It didn’t matter. He got up and left the table.
Talking works. Not always, of course. But players usually look for an excuse to call. The right words can get an opponent thinking. And sometimes, they just can’t resist the desire to satisfy their curiosity.
Having Fun. Stone faced, serious, tight-ass poker is no fun. Don’t let the killjoys fool you. Sure, maybe you can win that way, but you’ll win more when your opponents are having fun. They’ll stay in more pots, stay longer, and are more likely to buy in again after going bust. And besides, wouldn’t you rather have a good time at the poker table—not just when you go home and count the money you’ve won?
Talking can help other people have the good time they want from a casino visit. But you have to know how to talk to other people.
My friend Andrei—a relatively new and inexperienced player—is great at it. He is a natural. I walk over from my game to see how he’s doing. Regardless of the size of his stack, or whether he is up or down in a particular session, his table is always a joy to see. People are laughing, kidding each other, sometimes literally slapping each other playfully on the back. His friendliness is contagious, and others usually pick up his banter when he isn’t talking.
What kind of banter lightens up the table? Self-deprecating humor is a large part of it. When Andrei lost his sixth or seventh showdown in a row, he said, with a smile, “You’ve already taken my kidney and my liver—what’s left?” “An older woman responded, “your heart, sonny.” And everyone laughed. It also helps to show genuine interest in other people—asking them, in a relaxed way, where they’re from and what they do. If you’re a good listener, others will talk—and will think you’re a nice guy.
The key is that you make comments and ask questions that encourage others to have a good time, rather than a tightjawed, serious time.
Talking works. If these examples intrigue you, let me know. There’s a lot more ore to be mined here.
Ashley Adams is the author of Winning 7-Card Stud and Winning No Limit Low Limit Hold’em. He hosts the radio show House of Cards, broadcast Mondays at 5 – 6 p.m. in Boston, MA, on 1510 AM, and on the Internet at www.houseofcardsradio.com. Contact Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.