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Poker Life: Distractions at the Poker Table

Wed, Apr 12, 9:50am by Senior Writer

What is the most annoying things you know at the poker table? That incompetent but confident player who keeps getting lucky? That guy who just won’t stop talking? That fat guy who is sitting next to you taking up too much space? That guy who eats at the poker table and chews with his mouth open? That guy who takes a minute for each decision, even when he is folding pre-flop?

For me the answer is: all of the above! How does it affect my game? That is a tricky question. Hopefully not too much but I will admit that it can definitely affect me in a negative way.

Part of my strategy is to read the other players. To do that I need to pay attention. Why are they playing? How experienced are they? How good are they? What is their mood right now? By taking all of that into account I think I make better decisions. But the other side of the coin is that I also notice all the annoying things I would not see if I were just watching a movie on my iPhone.

In major tournament with a good blind structure you usually sit for hours with the same players and then I pay close attention not only to the players but also to the table atmosphere. At times the style will be wild, at times very tight. When the table is wild I play low pairs and suited connectors more loosely. At a tight table there is no point calling a raise with a low pocket pair hoping to flop a set—the implied pot odds are simply not there. When the table is wild, I am careful with high cards. Hands like A-J, Q-J and K-10 play very bad in those situations. Being able to adapt to the style of the table is a key strength in tournament play, and the table style can change quickly. At 10pm it might be wild but at 10.30pm it might be tight, and so on.

And, as I have written before, you also need to be aware of your own table image and that might vary too. You will be fully aware that you have played very tight for three hours but the other players’ memory is usually shorter. They will remember what you have done in the last half hour or so. If you have won five pots without a showdown in the last 30 minutes they will start to view you as a loose-aggressive player, regardless of how tight you played before that. I usually do not want to be viewed as super tight or super loose, so when I do not get any hands for a while I will just pick a hand and play it. And when I have been involved in many pots in a short period of time I will do the opposite: tighten up and only play premium hands. That way I try to keep a balanced table image. That is not necessary though, as long as you are aware of your own table image at the moment.


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