At its very core, poker is a social game. As a social game, people chat. Some pros chat more than others, see Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, Phil Hellmuth and the 2006 WSOP champion Jaime Gold. Gold went so far in his table talk that he actually told his players what his hands were and people were still calling him, knowing that they would lose if what he said was true. Gold’s performance at the 2006 WSOP is a perfect example of using table talk in live poker.
You can use good table talk to your advantage. However, there are still champions like Alan Cunningham and Phil Ivey who are great without using their mouth at all. Here are a few guidelines to having winning table talk.
Ask many questions
The main objective of asking many questions is to gather a lot of information. Just because you ask questions, doesn’t mean you will get answers. Often, people will try to lie in their answers. Your job is to try to decipher who is lying and who is not. The whole point is to gather information on the other players at the table so you can use that information to your advantage. There is a lot of psychology behind table talk. It’s a war going on in the poker room.
If you’re experienced, mention it
Usually at the beginning of the tournament, as players are trying to figure each out, it’s a good idea to mention that you are experienced. How many tournaments you’ve played in, how many poker games you’ve won, things like that. This isn’t information that you should broadcast with a megaphone, “Can I have your attention please!” No, do it with more subtlety. Drop a casual comment to one player, but say it loud enough for the whole table to hear. This type of psychology may scare people off when you re-raise.
Live Poker Isn’t School
Don’t start instructing other players at the table. If you know something that others don’t, the last thing you want to do is make your competition stronger.
Mix it up
When applying winning table talk, it’s important to keep your opponents guessing. You don’t have to tell the truth every time you speak. Tell some lies and bluff. Put on a good mix of behaviors to keep the competition guessing as to what you’re saying.