Speech play

Knowing when to utilise speech play is an important part of a poker player’s game

How much information do people generally give away when speaking at the table?

When you speak at the table, whether you’re in a hand or not, you give away lots of information. A great deal of players make huge mistakes by opening their mouths. If you’re an inexperienced player, particularly if you’re feeling nervous, it’s probably best to keep quiet in big hands. If you’re not feeling relaxed in a situation you’re going to give away a lot more information than you’re going to receive.

What does it mean when people get very talkative during a big pot?

As a general rule – and there are always exceptions – people who are talking have actually got something. They’re confident and relaxed enough not to worry about saying something that might get them called.

People often think the reverse is true, which can get them into trouble, but there really is no set rule. You have to sit there and listen to what people are saying and follow what’s going on. It’s a feel you have to develop and will only come with time. It’s got to be something that you make part of your instinct more than anything else.

How can you use speech play to manipulate your opponents?

If someone picks up their chips and looks like they’re about to raise I’ll often say, ‘Woooh, be careful. You don’t know what’s going to happen if you do that!’ That will do one of two things. It will either get them ultra-aggressive when they shouldn’t be or make them pass. Different players react in different ways. A verbal prod will usually get a reaction, but you have to work out what that reaction means according to what you’ve seen of the player in previous hands.

Can table talk help create a loose image?

Talking to people throughout a game will make them comfortable with you, and they’ll thus be more likely to get involved in hands with you. Roberto Romanello was playing in the Bellagio Cup and some guy from Venezuela was raising every hand.

Roberto told him he was ruining his game and was told, ‘This is how we play in Venezuela.’ Roberto replied, ‘Well, one of these days I’m going to come over the top and show you how we play in Wales.’ A few hands later he looked down to see A-A and quickly threw a chip on his cards before anyone had noticed he’d peeked.

The guy raised again so Roberto said, ‘I’m going to look at one card and if I like it I’m going to raise.’ He separated his cards, looked at one of them and said ‘Raise.’ He thought he was going to catch the Venezuelan but another player had Queens and pushed all-in. Roberto said, ‘I’m not even going to look. I call.’ Nobody realised that he’d looked and just thought he was prepared to call a huge pot with Ace-high.

What should you listen for when you’re in a hand?

When people are talking you should look for them to make the wrong signals. When they say – and appear to genuinely believe – things about hands that you know are incorrect, like, ‘You were a dog in that hand,’ it says a lot. You know that they’re overestimating the strength of their hand or don’t understand a situation very well.

Listen for players commenting on pots that have just taken place. If someone says, ‘If you’d raised I would have pushed over the top,’ you need to remember that. Listening to players talk about how they think the game should be played puts you halfway to beating them.

They might say, ‘I’m not going to stand for you pushing my blind around. I’m going to make a stand.’ That’s great because when you get a hand you raise them really big – so they’re forced to make a stand they can’t walk away from.

How can you tell when a player is weak from their patter?

Putting players on hands is not straightforward. You’d be uneasy if you were putting all your money in not 100 percent sure you’re in front, but that doesn’t mean you’re not winning. I could raise with 9-9 and you could re-raise with 10-10 and still be sending out weak signals. You need to find out if your opponent is vulnerable enough to fold.

You can usually get that information by saying, ‘I’m really going to have to make a move here. Are you going to pass?’ If they engage you in conversation they’ll often do so because they’re feeling confident. Something else to try is, ‘If I pass will you show me your cards?’ If they say ‘yes’, I normally take that as a sign of weakness and raise, as they are effectively encouraging me to pass. Often when people say, ‘You’ve got to pay to see them,’ they actually have got a hand.

How do you get someone to give you action?

If you put a raise in with Aces but the big blind looks like he’s going to pass, try goading him. Just say, ‘Blimey, you’ll pass to every raise,’ and some players will actually take the bait. If you say, ‘You should probably make a stand, but you can’t make a stand now because I’ve got Aces,’ they’ll never believe you actually have Aces. Who ever reveals the actual hand they’ve got?

How important is it to pick out patterns in the way people speak?

You should take note of how people act in different hands. Are they silent when they’ve got a hand or are they talking a lot? Watch the outcome of a hand when they’ve been acting in a particular way and take note the next time they start acting in a similar way. It’s another reason why you shouldn’t wear an iPod. Just because you’re not involved in a hand doesn’t mean you can’t be gaining key info about your opponents.

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