Chatting between players has always been an integral part of poker. Players can influence how a hand plays out by making a simple comment.
That’s a massive piece of the intrigue for many poker fans. Sometimes, it’s what you don’t say that can be more important than what you do say.
However, not all players understand the right time and wrong time for opening their mouths. It’s easy to spot a fish when they are overly chatty.
Merely making the wrong comment or being perceived as annoying or rude will quickly put a target on your back.
Here’s why chatting away at the poker table may cost you money.
The Social Element of Gambling
Gambling and, more specifically, casinos promote a fun and social atmosphere. Take a lap around the casino floor on your way to the poker room, and you’ll hear laughter and cheers from groups scattered around the varying table games.
Most of the cheers and jeers on the casino floor are lighthearted and don’t come with any nefarious intentions. That’s because, on the casino floor, it’s everyone against the house.
There’s a typical villain, and players generally have no reason to target each other. This social aspect is part of what keeps the casino such a fun place; there’s camaraderie among players.
However, the poker room is a different vibe. In real money poker games, it’s every player for themself. Every player at the table is there not to go after the casino’s money but your hardearned cash.
So, the feel-good “us against the casino” atmosphere is lost when a player enters a casino poker game. Players will still make efforts to chat you up, but it’s a maneuver aimed at getting you to lose focus.
If another player can get you to stop focusing on your cards, they’ve got a much better shot at catching you making a mistake.
More importantly, if you’re talking about your spouse or kids, you aren’t thinking about your opponent’s hand.
Masking Your True Intentions
Chatting up with other players can be an effective tool for masking your true intentions. Suppose I see a player begin chatting with a neighbor and raising. In that case, I generally consider that player to have a good hand—especially when the player hasn’t talked or raised much at all. When players are seriously making a play at a pot, the adrenaline starts to kick in.
A natural reaction at the poker table will be to mask that excitement, so casually talking to another player while betting is a red flag. It usually means they want you to call because they have a killer hand.
A serious player that suddenly wishes to appear aloof may be doing the opposite. They’re using the conversation to distract you from their nervousness.
They hope that the casual raise will scare you off a pot. It’s a fine line you must walk at the poker table, and paying attention to everything will determine your level of success.
Sometimes the Situation Calls for Talking Your Opponents Ear Off
There are several instances where talking your opponent’s ear off becomes paramount. However, you need to know exactly when and how you implement the strategy for maximum effectiveness.
When you’re playing tight, chatting with your opponents becomes a key. This idle conversation will give the impression that you’re getting lots of action.
Players regularly hear from you and engage you, so they don’t notice how few hands you’re playing.
Loose aggressive players need to engage other players as often as possible with as much positive energy as can be mustered. Loose aggressive players will make some players uncomfortable with their playing style.
The more you can endear yourself to the other players, the better shot that they may like you. If your fellow players enjoy your company, they’re less likely to become annoyed by your aggressive playing style.
Some players may think that the best way to get inside their opponent’s head is by playing the part of the heel. The heel is the overt villain; imagine the bad guys in professional wrestling.
These players play the bad guy for no reason other than an attempt to throw other players off their game. This is a bold strategy, and you’d better be sure you can handle the backlash of being universally despised by everyone within 30 feet.
Making the Most of Every Opportunity
Suppose you are set on making the most money possible at the poker table. In that case, it’s important to never miss an opportunity.
Having lengthy conversations surrounding any subject you can imagine at the poker table may be a costly distraction. When you take your focus off of the game, you will lose the edge over your opponent.
So, it’s critical that you keep tabs on how much you’re talking and how that will affect your play. Every missed opportunity will cost you money, and each of those missteps can add up to significant losses.
Always watch out for players that are making every effort to chat you up. Sometimes, this can be far more distracting because you’re not a rude person and have a habit of paying attention to what a person is saying.
This conversation is likely a tactic to get you pulled off your hand. Don’t allow another player to talk you into missing opportunities to collect wins.
Keep Your Goals in Focus
Keeping your goals in mind when you’re at the poker table is critical. Many people assume that the sole focus of any poker player is to win as much money as possible.
That may be true for you, but many poker players merely enjoy the social atmosphere of the poker table. That’s especially true for cash poker games in country clubs and garages around the world.
Still, I run into a ton of casino players that are simply there for the atmosphere. Usually, they have friends or family in the casino and prefer to spend their time and money playing poker.
I was playing a cash game at WinStar World Casino once at the low stake tables. The player to my immediate left would fold every hand unless he was in one of the blinds.
If anyone raised pre-flop, he would fold 90% of the time. I thought I had run into the tightest player on the planet. The older gentleman maintained this style of play for over four hours. At that point, his wife came into the poker room dressed to the nines with a fresh hairdo.
He asked if she enjoyed her spa day and assured her he hadn’t given away too much money waiting. This man was merely killing time while his wife got pampered and wanted some company; it was beautiful.
I bumped into the fellow the following day in the hotel bar and offered to buy him a drink. We spent an entire afternoon discussing life, golf, and the pleasure of good bourbon. It was an excellent lesson for me to learn as a young player; there’s more to poker than winning money.
Don’t Be Rude
Poker etiquette can be complicated to navigate for the newbie or recreational player. That’s because there are endless amounts of nuances and personalities that must be dealt with around the poker table.
When a player engages you in idle conversation, it’s usually best not to be overtly rude to the fellow poker fan. However, if they persist, you’re well within your rights to pull out the big guns and shut them down.
On the other hand, it’s important to distinguish between chatting and commentary. You should never comment on the cards dealt or how a player bets—especially if you’re not in the hand, heads up is a different story. Still, commenting on the cards or a raise in head-to-head may be considered to be poor taste by many.
The best approach is to keep things light and friendly. If your aim is to throw the other players off by upsetting them, you will accomplish two things.
You’ll put a target directly on your forehead, and you’ll show everyone at the table what a jerk you are. You can play the intimidation game without being rude, and in my opinion, it’s uncalled for in the casino.
Making the Human Connection
Humans strive to have connections with those around us. Part of what has made the last year so difficult is the loss of having regular interactions with other players.
You should expect players to be more chatty as the casino poker rooms open back up and draw in players that have been away for a while.
This connection with other players goes far beyond strategy or gamesmanship. It provides something more valuable than money can buy.
So, cut the talkative players some slack; you may be the first person they’ve talked to in 12 months or longer.
You may have never considered why chatting away at the poker table may cost you money. As you can see, there are several areas where talking too much might cost you.
Still, there’s a time and place for everything, and you shouldn’t feel the need to keep a somber mood at the table. A healthy mix of light conversation is totally appropriate when you’re playing your favorite game.