Live Poker: Prepare Your Table Talk

For all the advantages of online poker, there is an element of live poker that cannot be truly duplicated by the online game: the ability to talk face-to-face with your opponents. Online poker sites do provide a chat function where you can type conversations as you play but this does not have the same feel as a live dialogue with an opponent.

Benefits of Table Talk
Talk at the poker table can be used for a number of reasons. It can simply be social, to create a fun and relaxed atmosphere at the game. It can be to gain information, or it can be to needle your opponent and get them to play badly. All of these reasons may be encountered at the poker table and will inspire different kinds of talk.

Poker Talking to be Social
While social talking is not exactly manipulative table talk, it does have a benefit. Players you can get into a social conversation with may not play their hardest against you. They may be reluctant to bluff a new “friend,” and may be less likely to think you will bluff them. Even with no ulterior motive, talking socially can make the game more fun, help you make an important connection outside of poker or even find someone to analyze poker with away from the table.

Poker Talking to Gain Information
In most poker rooms you are not supposed to ask specifically what an opponent has, or tell them what you have. However there are a lot of ways to get information without such direct queries. Amarillo Slim is famous for asking an opponent how she liked her drink, then later asking her how she liked her hand and calling her bluff when the tone of her response was different.

Poker Talking to Needle an Opponent
This is one of the uglier forms of table talk but it is perfectly within the rules and an acceptable way to gain an edge in live poker games. In fact, many strong players are brutally needling and abusive at the table, but as soon as their opponent is knocked out or quit, are nice as can be to their former enemy. Putting opponents on tilt by criticizing their play or showing them how easily you beat them can make a serious positive impact on your results.

Notes on Poker Talking
If talking at the table doesn’t come naturally, you don’t have to do it. You are not obligated to answer any questions opponents direct at you or to say anything other than check, fold or raise. One player even brings a sign to the table that says “I do not answer questions,” in order to discourage table talk directed at him. If you want to talk at the table for any of the above reasons, great. If not, that’s certainly OK, too.