A growing trend in live poker circles is players wearing headphones and listening to their favourite music whilst they are playing poker. Whilst the advantages of being relaxed and not having to listen to sometimes incessant, boring table chatter are easy for anyone to see, not paying attention to what is being said by your opponents is tantamount to leaving money on the table.
Poker players love to talk, with brags about exploits or moans about bad beats being the top of their list of subjects to inform their table mates about. Just listening to the way they describe situations they have found themselves in can give you a good indication to their skills levels. For example, a player who talks about three-betting, donk-leading and re-stealing likely knows their way around a poker table whilst someone who is furious about a bad beat they have just suffered on another table may be about to go on tilt.
Listening and asking your opponents about their usual games, stakes and preferences can also be a massive help when you have a big decision to make. Knowing an opponent regularly plays high buy-in tournaments or makes a living playing 10 tables of NL200 could and should influence the way you play against them.
I was recently playing in a poker tournament where I heard a player talking to another one at my table about their preferred strategy early in tournaments. He said he preferred to gamble in an instant play poker later so I knew if I saw him splashing around in pots early doors then he was less likely to have a hand but would also be willing to go further with marginal hands If I were to make larger than usual value bets. Information like this is priceless.
Finally, simply chatting and being friendly to those at your able can sometimes endear them to you so they are less likely to attempt to bluff you or call you down lightly. This is a subconscious action that people often do as they see you as a friend and do not wish to cause you any distress. Whilst it will not work all the time, it will work often enough to make it profitable in the long run.
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