Using Your True Personality to Win at Poker
We’re all familiar with the types: the stone-faced, passionless visage, dark glasses covering any tells in their eyes, sitting perfectly still with their hands over their mouth as their opponent tries to “read” their body language in a head-up poker hand. Or, the boring old farts ( I’ve encountered so many of these guys over the years, I’m convinced there’s a factory churning them out somewhere) who complain that you “talk too much,” while tossing their cards at the dealer with the self-control of a three-year-old when they lose an all-in made hand to one that’s on the come. Or how about the ridiculously intense 23-year-old skinny guys, who think that unless they spend five minutes appearing to think through each hand that they don’t come across as the brain surgeons they are in their own minds!
These are all examples of “types” one invariably finds at any casino poker table, and they are also endemic to a certain poker disease I call “God forbid someone actually sees who I am while I play.” The common wisdom seems to be that revealing any aspect of your true being will simultaneously unveil where you’re at in a hand to your opponents, and be your death knell. But assumptions are meant to be questioned, so let’s tear this theory apart at the seams, shall we?
There is an old adage in the advertising world, that when everyone else is zigging, you should zag. Meaning, don’t emulate everyone else if you want to get your own unique response and results. The same could well be applied to poker. People, insecure in what they perceive to be the “correct” way to behave at a poker table, adapt personalities that are not their own in the mistaken belief that this somehow improves their game or makes them look more intelligent. In fact, it often has the opposite effect, in that they come across as the pretentious wanna-be players that they really are, and are actually easier, not harder, to read in any given hand.
I have always had a big, colorful personality, and I have no intention of putting that aspect of myself to bed simply because I am playing cards! First of all, I spend way too much time playing poker to pour that much energy into creating a false persona for myself. Secondly, there is simply no reason to suppress your own human energy in a mistaken attempt to “confuse” people about how you play. All you need to do is a little sleight-of-hand; but like all good magicians, it is not about recreating reality so much as controlling what people perceive about it and how they interpret it.
Here’s what it boils down to: the more someone is trapped in their own need to appear a certain way, the more your own freedom to be yourself will annoy the living daylights out of them (Exhibit A with the aforementioned boring old farts). Use that power to your advantage! If you’re loquacious, chat away! If you’re beautiful and sexy, flirt with everyone at the table! If you’re simply quirky and off-beat, be bizarre to your heart’s content! The secret is, once you have other players reacting to you, you essentially own them; then it’s up to you how you drive the car from there. They will either want to take you down to show you that your self-determination is going to have you burning in Poker Hell, or they will be so confused and intimidated by your genuine persona, they really won’t be able to get an accurate read on where you (and therefore they!) are at in any given hand against you.
In poker, as in life, winners think outside the box and don’t always act the way society expects them to. Take some time to consider if you are putting way too much valuable energy into trying to appear “cool,” or like someone you are not, that could instead be used to wile, beguile and at the end of the day, genuinely confuse and confound your poker opponents. All good con artists know, the secret to a great con is to mix mostly truth with a little…just a little…fiction! Create your own personal recipe for confusion by being you, but with a few elements of surprise and contradiction. The exact result should change subtly from session to session, so that even players who know you well won’t really know what’s happening in any given hand. Be creative and have fun throwing flares here and there to distract and obscure the truth. But at the end of the day, relax and have fun, knowing that there is far more power in being yourself than in any facade you can hide behind. All masks can be ripped off and are one-dimensional and frozen; but a real face has a million expressions, and a true voice can be thrown far, or draw listeners in with a whisper. It’s your call, use it wisely, and imaginatively!