If you’ve ever watched a poker game on YouTube you will see a myriad of ways that players stop themselves from getting distracted. Hats, headphones, sunglasses are all very trendy. Sunglasses and hats are understandable. You don’t want to inadvertently give away any tells. But headphones are a bit extreme.
There are some real advantages to engaging at the poker table. Not least because you never know what you are going to learn about your opponent’s current hand strength. And how they think about poker in general. Sure, some people will be bluffing or goading other players. But that is as much of a tell as anything else they might do.
Humans, by nature, love to talk. Poker players may give away valuable information about their thought processes and how they play the game. If you listen in on the table chatter at any live event a common conversation you will hear is people discussing big hands they have won. As well as the bad beats they have suffered. This happens whether you are playing in your local casino or taking part in a wsop tournament.
Take mental notes about the players. Likewise online, where you can jot down the various things you learn about your opponents. It will be helpful if you come across them again at a later date.
Another thing people love to do is exaggerate their stories to make them more interesting. So try not to pay too much attention to people bragging about their exploits. You may get some clue as to how experienced a player is. Join the dots. If a player claims to be a regular winner at the $100 games, question why they are sat playing in a $10 re-buy.
Pay more attention to how they describe hands they have been involved in. This can give a good insight into the sort of player they are. If a player says something along the lines of “I had a pair of aces, went all-in and some donkey called me with a pair of tens. Then he hit a ten on the flop to bust me”. Then you should assume they are either an amateur player. Or that they don’t actually pay much attention to table dynamics or what components make up a typical hand.
However, if the same player described a hand by saying, “I had a stack of only eight big blinds and open-shoved with a pair of aces from on the button. The big blind, the chip leader, made the call with tens and flopped a set to bust me,” then I would be wary of this player.
In those couple of sentences, he has shown he is positionally aware. He is observant of his and his opponents’ chip stacks and also that he realises the big stacked big blind was compelled to call. This type of player is more likely to be a solid winning player than the previous person is.
Keep your ears open, you never know what you might learn.