A Dozen Ways to Have More Fun At Poker
I visited my local poker room the other day. It was crowded. I went on the waiting lists for the $1/$2 and $2/$5 no-limit hold'em tables. While I waited I walked around. Wow, what a lot of sour faces! Was everyone here a professional having a bad day at the office? Then why all the apparent melancholy? Maybe they all just forgot how to have a good time.
I dedicate this article to them. And also, as an aside, I'll note that it's easier to make money from people out to have a good time then it is from hard-nosed, serious poker players. One of the most important parts of making money at poker is to look for or to create the fun atmosphere that is more conducive to gambling. So consider this as an attempt to improve our bottom line while also having a good time!
Listed below are a dozen specific things you can do to have more fun at poker. As a whole, they should help you create the happy, fun-loving mood at the table that helps your bottom line. But even if they don't accomplish that feat, they will surely help you better enjoy your time at the table.
1. Be friendly
People tend to be more playful with people they like than with people they dislike. You'll also enjoy the experience more than if you behave as if you're at war with everyone else.
2. Show an interest in other people
Listen to others' stories. Your fellow players will enjoy their time with you if you will indulge them when they tell their favorite tales, even bad beat stories. And who knows, you might learn something.
3. Have stories of your own.
I'm not saying you should talk them to death. But sharing a funny or interesting story can often lighten up what may otherwise be a too serious game.
4. Bring something interesting to the table
By this I mean something like a poker chip from another casino, a piece of jewelry, or a funny hat or t-shirt. It will often be a good way of starting a conversation that will lighten the mood.
5. Go along with the crowd
If everyone is straddling or occasionally calling the bring-in blind, it helps if you do so, too. Sure, you might be wasting your money on a negative-EV move. But the tiny amount you spend once a round will often pay dividends in keeping everyone from becoming nitty rocks.
6. Keep your ego in check
If someone hectors you for a bad move, don't take offense. If they're right, you learn something. If they're wrong, why smarten them up about the wisdom in your play? It really doesn't matter if other players think of you as a poor player. What matters is keeping things light, fun, and easy.
7. Laugh at yourself
Laughter is the best medicine for diffusing tense situations. There's no reason to prove that you're right and they're wrong. Being the most liked person at the table is more advantageous than being thought the best poker player at the table.
8. Don't laugh at others
Ridicule is said to be the strongest weapon. While you may score some immediate points with others for pointing out someone else's weaknesses, the object of your ridicule will hate you for it. Why invite hostility? Be accepting and agreeable instead.
9. Be generous
Did you bring gum or candy to the table? Offer it to everyone. If the pot is short a buck, you be a sport and throw it in. Someone doesn't have a buck for a tip, you be generous and tip for him. You'll probably get it back as soon as change is made, but even if you don't, you'll be liked for your generosity, and will likely be rewarded in other ways later in the game (with soft play, casual calls, and the like).
10. Make extraneous prop bets
It helps to have opponents in a gambling mood, with bets on all sorts of extraneous things. For example, pay your opponent $5 every time the flop is all red, and he pays you $5 every time it's all black.
11. Be gracious and courteous to a fault
Greet the new players, and say goodbye to those who leave. Try to remember people's names, and to use them. Small things matter to people. Remember again that being liked and well thought of is worth the small effort to do so.
Much has been written about having a poker face, that is, adopting a completely neutral expression so no one can ever read your reaction to your cards. All well and good. You don't want to give off tells. But if your aim is to be pleasing, so the game remains light, pleasant, and profitable, your best poker face is a smile.
Being thought of us a nice guy can carry with it some financial reward as a game of happy, fun-loving, gambling poker players is usually more profitable than a table full of grim grinders. But even if you don't end up adding to your bottom line with these practices, you will almost surely enjoy your session a whole lot more. And that's worth something, isn't it?
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See www.houseofcardsradio.com for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.