The Poker Shrink, Vol 30 - There is Psychology and then there is Psychology
Sometimes its better to make your point very quietly and other times you will be a lot more successful making a whole lot of noise. Last weekend I got a very interesting lesson in psychology at the poker table and unlike so many of the lessons we get at the tables, this one didn't cost me anything, in fact, I made four hundred dollars just for being quiet.
I was playing a $2/$4 no limit hold'em ring game at one of the poker rooms on the Las Vegas strip. The room I was playing in spreads $2/$4 no limit and $1/$2 no limit games. I have found that the $2/$4 game is much more profitable, simply because it has less bankroll swings for my style of play. Obviously other styles of play do not perform as well in this game or I would not be making a steady profit at there. On this night it was clear fairly early that the other player at the table was seated down on the far end in seat seven. He acknowledged my first big hand with a wry smile and he noticed that I got out of the way of a smooth stop-n-go move that made him a sizeable profit. He talked amiably with his end of the table and I was my normally quiet self at my end. He knew what I was doing, I knew his plan and we were both content to not trespass on each other's pots. Let's call him Arthur.
Soon, however, a nearby $1/$2 game began to heat up. If they didn't have their own cocktail waitress, they should have. Several of the players knew each other and clearly the $200 maximum buy-in was not an issue for many of the players. The game was loud and getting louder; the pots were big and getting bigger. Soon, Arthur was walking over to watch them gamble when he was out of the hand at our table. Clearly, he was hatching a plan. After one monstrous and loudly contested hand, I waved the brush over and quietly requested a table change to that table. About fifteen minutes later two of the more reluctant players at the "big table" were busted on a runner-runner suckout and the floor came by and told both Arthur and myself that your seats were available. Arthur gave me a surprised look; he had not seen me request the table change.
While making the table switch, Arthur said: "I notice you tend to be very quiet at the table."
And I replied: "Yes and that will continue."
As we hit the table Arthur was calling for the cocktail waitress and ordering a "Double Jack and Coke." I quietly slipped into my seat down at the other end. I am sure I was the only one who noticed that he placed his order with the same waitress he had had a conversation with a few minutes earlier back at our old table; the same waitress he had tipped very generously. When she arrived with his drink and he immediately ordered another: "Keep them coming, darlin'." I was also the only one who would have given odds that there was a lot of Coke and no Jack in those drinks.
Arthur had his psychological plan to implement and I had mine. Mine worked even better with Arthur joining in the fun and playing lots of pots. But when he raised to $40 and got three callers before I made it $200 all-in, he was the only one who folded his cards to my pocket aces. And when he had rebought once and made a flat $80 call of a $20 open and $40 raise, I tossed my pocket pair into the muck because I knew Arthur had found his hand. After he took down an $800+ pot, he took a stroll and when he came back my seat was empty. I watched from outside the poker room as he played another round, folded every hand and then made a falsely drunken exit with a $600 profit for an hour's work.
Arthur had his psychological read on what it would take to make that one big hand and he was willing to gamble $200 to find it. I had my read on the table and under the disguise of Arthur's act, I only had to invest $50 to collect my $400 profit. His read was great; mine was good but given a big assist by the loud pseudo-drunk at the far end of the table. Watch carefully the next time you see one of those shark shows on the Travel Channel; watch for the barrcuda picking up the big leftover chunks of fish.
There are all kinds of psychology to be employed at the tables; this was a tale of just two of them.