(Distributed Feb. 27, 2007)
COPYING POKER PLAYERS ON TV MAY HINDER YOUR SUCCESS
Today’s typical player is better at poker than before the advent of the hole-card camera that revolutionized the game on TV. Many of us copy what we see on the screen. Is that a bad thing?
Well, let’s start with the sunglasses.
At major events, it’s not unusual for half of the players to don dark eyewear when they’re in action. In your local card room, typically two or three opponents at your table will have shades on. Should you?
Well, if you think your eyes are signaling the strength or weakness of your hands, then the answer is yes. Not giving “tells” to your opponents can be the difference between winning and losing.
Sunglasses also allow you to observe opponents’ mannerisms without them knowing you’re watching. That can be an advantage against weak and average players. Plus, I suppose some people just think dark glasses give them confidence and make them look cool. Fair enough.
So what’s the downside? Well, strong players know how to use eye and body movements to entice opponents to make mistakes. With sunglasses on, the message strong players would like to send is hindered. The best plan for them probably is to mimic Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and not move a muscle while an opponent decides what to do.
At that point, I believe many typical opponents get suspicious of players hiding their eyes and are more likely to hang in there against them, thus reducing successful bluffs by players in shades.
A few years ago I tried wearing sunglasses while playing, but never found a pair dark enough to shield my eyes yet light enough to allow me to clearly see the board cards. It was especially difficult to see players’ up-cards at the other end of the table while playing seven-card stud. So, I ditched the sunglasses.
There’s a reason some tournaments have banned players from wearing headphones: They can slow down the game. I suppose such audio devices also could be used to cheat, but I’ve never heard of that happening.
I know players who say listening to music helps keep them calm and focused at the table. The tunes also keep them from being bored when they’re not in a hand, they say. Maybe so, but I think wearing headphones also shows a certain disrespect of the game and the other players.
For one thing, dealers are trained to keep games moving along by announcing blinds, straddle bets, raises, showdown results, etc. If you’re rocking out to Pink Floyd in your head, how can you hear what’s happening at the table? The music becomes a distraction.
Moreover, since most poker games are recreational, not cutthroat, detaching yourself with headphones seems rather anti-social. You miss out on some funny and friendly table-talk, and headphones can even mark you as a target for opponents to play extra hard against because you’re “different.”
Of course, if the guy beside you won’t stop telling moronic knock-knock jokes, break out the headphones and crank ‘em up until he busts out!
Finally: exposing your hole cards.
Some well-known players — Howard Lederer comes first to mind — never show their hole cards when they’ve made a bet that drives out all remaining opponents. Their motto: You’ve got to pay to see.
Mike Sexton, popular commentator on the World Poker Tour televised events, always knocks a player who reveals his hole cards when he doesn’t have to. “I think it’s a mistake to give your opponents added information about how you play,” he’ll say, whether the player shows a stone-cold bluff or a monster hand.
Sexton probably is right when it comes to high-profile events with megabucks at stake. At that level, opponents are good enough to use such information to their advantage.
In a friendly home game, however, showing cards is part of the fun. And in card room games, showing a bluff or a monster can sometimes pay dividends later in the session by enticing an opponent to misread the strength of your hand.
I’ll occasionally show a winning hand in a card room after the last opponent folds, partly to reinforce the notion that when I bet, I’ve got the goods. Never do I show a successful bluff.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 RUSS SCOTT
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.