Live poker strategy: Table Talk (in association with the Mazagan Beach Resort)

Are you planning on joining us at the Fariss Sunset Poker event at the Mazagan Resort in September? Get yourself ready for the tables with the second in our live strategy series and discover how talk at the table can win you chips

Win a €13k package to the Mazagan10 High Roller by clicking here.

The term table talk basically refers to anything you say during a poker hand in an attempt to engage your opponent. In some cardrooms table talk is virtually prohibited and you may not say anything to induce or discourage action from another player.

In other places you’re allowed to say pretty much anything, other than to state your exact holding (to avoid any intentional collusion). Clearly you must be aware of the rules of the cardroom you are playing in if you intend to use table talk as a big part of your game.

Do you need the chat?

Is a mastery of table talk important if you want to succeed at poker? No. Just ask Phil Ivey – though don’t expect much in the way of an answer. But although it isn’t crucial to have the gift of the gab, it is important to understand and interpret what other people might be saying. Table talk links directly with your table image. some people are ultra-talkative, while others choose to stay silent.

Try not to engage in too much conversation when making the positive action during a hand, or with the other players at the table when not involved in a hand. This ultra-clinical approach projects a hard image of someone who is focused solely on the game and is not to be messed with lightly. Obviously this sort of demeanour becomes much more difficult to maintain the more people you get to know as the game continues, and poker can be a very social game.

Often when someone is talking to you in an attempt to extract info about your hand or style, you can learn just as much from him as he is trying to learn from you. Observe how the person talks when in a hand with other players and try to see if you can pick up a pattern. Just as betting patterns can reveal clues about your opponents’ hands, so can speech patterns.

Does a talkative player suddenly clam up when the flop is dealt? When you ask him if he has a good hand, does he usually answer right away but this time hesitates?

If you choose to talk, make sure it’s on your terms and be selective about what you say. Talk with a specific purpose in mind and above all don’t say anything that could potentially harm you or reveal your state of mind. Here are some tips that may help you at the table…

DO Ask questions

One of the main purposes of speech play is to gain information, and the simplest way to do that is by asking. Try asking leading questions like, ‘It’s a bit early to bluff, isn’t it?’ Some players may respond, others may try not to react at all. Either way you should gain some sort of information, and be able to put your opponent under some uncomfortable pressure.

Some players talk much more when holding a strong hand. While it is a generalisation to say that players are more likely to respond if they have a big hand, at the intermediate level it is often a good indicator.

The first time you are in a pot with a player, don’t use this as a watertight read. But be on the lookout for situations in which a player’s hands go to showdown and you can begin to piece together what he may say in different scenarios.

DO Create a false image

Some of the loudest players are also some of the tightest. They are using a projected image to convince you they are wild players and help generate action when they have a big hand.

In reality, if you scrutinise their play closely, they are playing very tight. This is not an approach to use when on a table full of good players, however, on a table with several inexperienced players this strategy can be highly effective.

Some players like to pepper their speech with phrases such as ‘I’m not afraid to gamble,’ especially when showing down bluffs in small pots. Rest assured, most of these players will have a strong hand when they choose to play a big pot.

DON’T Give away your thought processes

One of the pitfalls of TV poker is that it persuades viewers that the edited footage they see is a good guide on which to base their own game.

Daniel Negreanu is undoubtedly one of the best proponents of speech play. One of the things you will see him do quite frequently is talk out loud when faced with a decision. You will see several people try to imitate this style at the poker table, and without exception all they have done is reveal how they think about the game.

You should never give away crucial information that gives other players at the table a significant advantage. Rattling off lines like, ‘I know you’d have reraised preflop with a big Ace, you just checked and called with the flush draw on the flop, and you are betting big now the board has paired so that must mean…’ does not make you look good.

Negreanu may impress people with his hand-reading skills, but your job at the poker table should be to show people how good you are by making good decisions. It’s not your job to start educating players on how you think.

DON’T Alert people to your intentions

One of the common mistakes people make with speech play is to try to make verbal stands against aggressive players. ‘Raising my blind again? You can’t always have a hand. Next time you raise, I’m coming after you.’

While these players assume their verbal will have an effect on their opponents, it only serves to alert any decent opponent to their frustration.

Now these players are forced to wait for a hand to play back with for fear of getting looked up light. If they’d remained impassive in the face of their opponent’s aggression, they’d have got a lot more respect when they chose to draw a line and come back over the top.

DON’T Give lessons

We all know that by giving out good advice you are making your opponents better, so why do so many people do it at the table? By educating an opponent at the table, you are also serving to teach the rest of your opponents how to beat you by giving them an insight into how you play.

Sometimes someone will actively seek your opinion on a hand they just played, even if you weren’t involved. Again you should defuse this as politely as possible either by agreeing with them (even if you don’t) or generally just being very ambiguous. When a similar scenario comes up where you are involved, you don’t want to help your opponents spot which of your betting patterns is likely to signify certain holdings.


The thing to remember is that while table talk can be a useful tool, above all it’s more important to listen than it is to talk. Take careful note when people comment on your play, either to you or to others at the table. They are essentially giving you an insight into how they perceive your play and handing you a playbook on how to play against them.

Whether you choose to talk a lot or not at all, be sure anything you do say has a purpose and cannot be used against you by your opponents.

Mazagan Beach Resort: Test out your live skills and play poker in paradise

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday? Endless sandy beaches with scorching sunshine? Horses and buggies to go exploring on straight from your hotel? A full 18-hole links golf course designed by Gary Player? Tennis courts, go-karting and exquisite food in a variety of restaurants? The Mazagan Beach Resort hits all of these and adds Africa’s biggest casino to the mix, with a dedicated poker room so you can play a quality deep-stack tournament and hopefully leave with more money than you arrived with.

The Mazagan resort has been growing its poker recently, offering tournaments in addition to round-the-clock cash games. And we’ve negotiated a special offer so you can get out there without breaking your bankroll. Click here to find out more now!

PokerPlayer will be attending the Mazagan Fariss and Mazagan High Roller events in September 2016. Join us by clicking here

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