Lesson #4: Creating A Strong Table Presence
Trying to find the right table presence–conservative or aggressive–in live games is an important step to getting you into the cash faster. What happens on the felt, is an extension of what’s going on above the rail in person-to-person interactions. If you’re looking for an edge, find the table presence that suits you.
Winning The Game Above The Rail: Tells
Playing good strategic poker is half the battle. Knowing how to handle yourself at the table to extract the most information out of your opponents, while giving away the least about yourself boils down to approach. Which school of thought works best for you?
1) Conservative/Defensive Approach
If you’re new to the game or have no interest in learning the human element to live gameplay, adopting a conservative approach may work best for you. The defensive approach is about eliminating as much unnecessary distraction as possible to increase your comfort level so you can play some solid poker. People are always going to try to throw you off your game, so prevent it by shutting them down and giving them nothing to work with.
“Conceal Don’t Reveal”
As the name suggests, shield yourself and prevent your opponents from gathering information on you.
Protect Yourself: Hoodie, Sunglasses, Scarf
There’s nothing to see, not if you’re covering as much of your body as possible. Especially anywhere that could betray a strong pulse – eyes, neck, wrist and as much of your chest as possible. This strategy is useful for people who feel pressure and discomfort when others stare them down, so create an impenetrable bubble to keep your focus on the game.
Block Out Distraction: Earplugs, Headphones, Mindset
To help keep you in your bubble, don’t just conceal, tune out and limit external distractions. Music is a popular choice among many players. But this can take you too far out of the game and into your own world. A good middle ground is using earplugs. They cancel out minor sounds – idle chit chat or chips clinking – while still allowing you to engage in direct conversations.
2) Aggressive/Offensive Approach
This style of gameplay is used by many of the poker masters, like Negreanu. It’s all about gathering as much info on your opponent as possible.
Engage Your Opponents
The first step to an offensive approach is getting info on your opponents so you can gauge how they look in different situations. To be able to gauge them, you need to engage them. Get them talking, whatever it takes for them to show you their inadvertent tells.
Gather More Information On Your Opponents
The more information you’ve gathered on your opponents, the easier your decision making during clutch situations.
Betray More Information About Yourself
Playing aggressively does come with risks. Be aware of what you’re projecting and who’s watching. Before you sit down to a table, try to identify who is using a conservative or aggressive approach. This will help you when deciding who to engage, be cautious of and who is not worth your time. And just because some players shield themselves, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to engage them.
Who Do You Want To Be?
Who do you want to be at the felt and why? Do you want to be the happy-go-lucky best friend, or does it pay better to be the trash-talking jerk?
A Friend: More Likely To Get Credit
If you are someone’s friend, they’re more likely to give you credit, believe your bluff and be less likely to play close spot pots with you. For example, it will be much easier to get away with light 3-bet preflop if your someone’s friend.
An Enemy: More Likely To Get Action
If you are an enemy, your opponent will probably go out of their way to play pots with you. If you have a good feel for your opponent, and are comfortable making big calls, then playing the villain can get you a lot of extra action and profit.
The Easiest Person To Be Is: Yourself
Role-playing takes a lot of skill and practice if you want to pull it off. To be a winner though you don’t have to play a role. If you want to focus on the cards and play good poker, just be yourself. Conservative or aggressive, it doesn’t matter, just run with whichever makes you the most comfortable, so you can make the best decisions while at the table.
Finding your approach in live gameplay is the next step to elevating your game. Whether it’s a conservative conceal and don’t reveal strategy or the aggressive engage your opponents to gauge their reactions approach; figure out which makes you most comfortable. The more at ease you are on the felt, the better your decision-making, and the faster you’re into the money.