Be a good listener

It’s important to use all of your senses at the poker table

Keep your ears open to what your opponents are saying

There’s so much to absorb when you’re playing live that sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Has the raiser got shaking hands? Did the early position limper show any reaction to the raise or the player to his left? Did you?

In your first few ‘flesh’ games it might feel that the only way you’ll get up to speed is if a Lawrence Fishburne guru-type crammed you full of live experience by inserting a plug into the back of your head a la The Matrix. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen. You’re going to have to learn the hard way, and that’s where the games begin.

You may have developed routines to minimise the amount of information that you’re leaking to other players at the table, and that’s definitely a good thing. After all once you’ve pushed all-in on someone else you’ve got no further action that you can take in the hand, right? Wrong.


Playing in a tournament recently I pushed all-in with A-K suited from the big blind after a button raise from a very aggressive player. Because I had no further action to take, I made like the sphinx. With my hands up to my mouth and focus centred 100 yards away I was giving away little. The fella eyeballing me – a solid player that was willing to back up his reads – asked, ‘Have you got my Ace dominated?’

After getting no response, he continued, ‘I’ve got an Ace but is your kicker bigger than mine?’ I was laughing inside. My Ace was miles ahead of his A-Q or A-J so I said nothing. Eventually he called… with 5-5! It was a gambling call but he certainly had the odds to do it if he put me on overcards (50,000 in the pot and 30,000 to call).

It was at that point that I realised that his needling was just an attempt to establish if I had overcards or a pair. He had the balls to follow his read on the situation so fair play to him, but was there anything else that I could do? If I’d broken my silence to say he was welcome to race his Ace he may have assumed that I had a pair and dropped his Fives.

So next time you find yourself in a tough live tournament keep your ears open to what your opponents are saying, but always question what they’re actually trying to find out.

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