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Table Talk at the WSOP: What *Not* to Say

Table Talk at the WSOP: What Not to Say

This summer, the eyes of the poker world will be on Las Vegas in Nevada. For two months every year, the poker capital of the world plays host to the World Series of Poker. The PokerNews team will be right by your side from start to finish to bring you all the drama from the tournament rooms of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

But what if you're actually sitting down to play in one of the 80-plus bracelet events happening at the Rio? How should you approach the series if you've never registered for that tournament ticket before?

Over the next few weeks we'll be taking a look at some of the ways you can feel right at home throughout the WSOP. The first topic we'll talk about is... well... what to talk about. And what not to.

Table talk has been a part of poker for years, baby. From Scotty Nguyen to Phil Hellmuth, through Will Kassouf and Daniel Negreanu, what players find suitable to talk about while playing has always been a controversial subject. What follows are five subjects that you might want to avoid if you're even considering chatting like a boss.

1. Politics

The biggest "no-no" conversation topic in American culture right now might ironically be exactly what everyone needs to talk about. Should Democrats and Republicans be discussing how to widen their common ground? Possibly. Would we all get on better if we opened our mind to the other side's political stance? Maybe. Should we start a conversation about politics at the poker table? Hell, no!

Taking current opinion polls into account, bringing up politics during a game of poker will very likely alienate at least a third of those sitting around the table, perhaps more. Whether you want to Make America Great Again or believe the only good wall is one made of poker chips, striking up a conversation about the benefits of being "red" or "blue" is like going all in on a gutshot — more often than not, it won't end well.

Table Talk at the WSOP: What *Not* to Say 101

[I]What Not to Say...[/I]

  • "Can you believe what Trump just said on Twitter?"
  • "You've got more chips than your party has policies."
  • "When I win this tournament, I'll pay for the wall."

2. Religion

As John Lennon once sang: "Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too. Imagine all the poker players, living life in peace."

Okay, Lennon didn't sing exactly those lyrics, but he could have if he were singing about those sitting around the felt at the Rio. Because if there's one thing you should never, ever bring up at the poker table, by God, it's religion. The one subject that'll put you in all kinds of holy hell is discussing the Bible or the Koran. Karma is even out to get you.

Nailing your colors to the mast for one religion or another is one thing, but modern-day life often sees people fall into two camps: those who are religious and damn anyone who isn't, and those who disagree with anything religious and damn anyone who is.

There's nothing to stop you sending up a quick prayer to the poker gods for that miraculous river card that saves your tournament. Perhaps think twice, though, before going on about how divine intervention just resurrected your title chances.

Table Talk at the WSOP: What *Not* to Say 102

[I]What Not to Say...[/I]

  • "Is an agnostic like a peaceful atheist?"
  • "If you don't believe in heaven, you're going straight to hell."
  • "I hope the Poker Gods smite you so bad."

3. Bad Luck

This is such a big one, it's worth making our advice really simple. No one, repeat no one is interested in hearing your bad beat story.

In fact, so unpopular were stories of bad luck at the WSOP tables in the past that the Rio once played host to a "bad beat booth" for players to moan about their misfortune. A version of that same service still exists in the Rio hallway to this day, but you now have to purchase a cellphone charger before you can share your tale of woe.

Talking about bad beats is a bad idea all around. For starters, you are never going to find a less sympathetic demographic than poker players, many of whom may have suffered worse luck than you that very day. Secondly, whether you realize it or not, your bad beat story has been heard before. No, wait, it has. Yes, even with aces. Especially with aces.

Save those stories for your friends who don't see poker hands every day. They are far more likely to... tell you they have no idea what you're talking about.

Table Talk at the WSOP: What *Not* to Say 103

[I]What Not to Say...[/I]

  • "I haven't won a flip today."
  • "I haven't won a flip the whole series."
  • "I've literally never won a flip. Legit."

4. Strategy

On the face of it, talking strategy might seem a good idea. After all, you're among other poker players, and they're going to have an approach to poker that might be interesting and informative, right? Wrong. Talking "strat" is generally a very bad idea. (Also, try not to say "strat.")

One bad by-product of talking strategy is that you can easily insult players with less experience than you. But the worst case scenario is that you educate your audience regarding your own weaknesses, informing them exactly how to beat you at your own game.

If there's strategy to be learned, you can often do that in total silence, concealing your sponge-like nature from your opponents.

Table Talk at the WSOP: What *Not* to Say 104

[I]What Not to Say...[/I]

  • "I'm surprised they value bet the river there, aren't you?"
  • "For me, his story on the river made as much sense as the second season of True Detective."
  • "Talk about a mismerged range. I bet he thinks GTO stands for Game of Thrones!"

5. The Dealer

Everyone loves to talk, don't they? What about the poor dealers, though? They get left out of every conversation at the table. They silently go about their business, dealing the cards, collecting the chips, raking in antes. Surely dealers would enjoy a little chat. Wouldn't they?

How about "No"? Dealers work long shifts. They've seen more poker hands than you. They might have even played as many or more than you. And now they're surrounded not just by nine players, but 99 tables and 999 square feet of the Rio's blisteringly cold air conditioning system.

Meanwhile their friends are texting them, presuming how cool it must be to work at the World Series while they're posting photos of themselves on beaches on Instagram.

Table Talk at the WSOP: What *Not* to Say 105

[I]What Not to Say...[/I]

  • "Bet you get sick of asking for antes, hey?"
  • "What time do you guys finish, then?"
  • "Come on dealer, find me aces for Chrissake!"

There you have it — five topics of conversation for which you might do well to consider self-banning yourself immediately.

But what can you talk about at the World Series of Poker? We'll talk about that tomorrow.

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  • What *not* to talk about at the table when playing the World Series of Poker this summer.

  • Table talk at the WSOP: A list of topics which it is probably negative-EV to bring up at the tables.

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