Creating a Strong Table Presence

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Lesson #4: Creating
A Strong Table Presence

Trying to find the
right table presence–conservative or aggressive–in live games is an important
step to getting you into the cash faster. What happens on the felt, is an
extension of what’s going on above the rail in person-to-person interactions.
If you’re looking for an edge, find the table presence that suits you.

Winning The Game
Above The Rail: Tells

Playing good
strategic poker is half the battle. Knowing how to handle yourself at the table
to extract the most information out of your opponents, while giving away the
least about yourself boils down to approach. Which school of thought works best
for you? 

Conservative/Defensive Approach

If you’re new to
the game or have no interest in learning the human element to live gameplay,
adopting a conservative approach may work best for you. The defensive approach
is about eliminating as much unnecessary distraction as possible to increase
your comfort level so you can play some solid poker. People are always going to
try to throw you off your game, so prevent it by shutting them down and giving
them nothing to work with.

  • “Conceal Don’t Reveal”

As the name suggests, shield yourself
and prevent your opponents from gathering information on you.

  • Protect Yourself: Hoodie, Sunglasses, Scarf

There’s nothing to see, not if you’re
covering as much of your body as possible. Especially anywhere that could
betray a strong pulse – eyes, neck, wrist and as much of your chest as
possible. This strategy is useful for people who feel pressure and discomfort
when others stare them down, so create an impenetrable bubble to keep your
focus on the game.

  • Block Out Distraction: Earplugs, Headphones, Mindset

To help keep you in your bubble,
don’t just conceal, tune out and limit external distractions. Music is a
popular choice among many players. But this can take you too far out of the
game and into your own world. A good middle ground is using earplugs. They
cancel out minor sounds – idle chit chat or chips clinking – while still
allowing you to engage in direct conversations. 

Aggressive/Offensive Approach

This style of
gameplay is used by many of the poker masters, like Negreanu. It’s all about
gathering as much info on your opponent as possible.

  • Engage Your Opponents

The first step to an offensive
approach is getting info on your opponents so you can gauge how they look in
different situations. To be able to gauge them, you need to engage them. Get
them talking, whatever it takes for them to show you their inadvertent

  • Gather More Information On Your Opponents

The more information you’ve gathered
on your opponents, the easier your decision making during clutch situations.

  • Betray More Information About Yourself

Playing aggressively does come with
risks. Be aware of what you’re projecting and who’s watching. Before you sit
down to a table, try to identify who is using a conservative or aggressive
approach. This will help you when deciding who to engage, be cautious of and
who is not worth your time. And just because some players shield themselves,
doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to engage them. 

Who Do You Want To

Who do you want to
be at the felt and why? Do you want to be the happy-go-lucky best friend, or
does it pay better to be the trash-talking jerk? 

  • A Friend: More Likely To Get Credit

If you are someone’s friend, they’re
more likely to give you credit, believe your bluff and be less likely to play
close spot pots with you. For example, it will be much easier to get away with
light 3-bet preflop if your someone’s friend.

  • An Enemy: More Likely To Get Action

If you are an enemy, your opponent
will probably go out of their way to play pots with you. If you have a good
feel for your opponent, and are comfortable making big calls, then playing the
villain can get you a lot of extra action and profit. 

The Easiest Person
To Be Is: Yourself

Role-playing takes
a lot of skill and practice if you want to pull it off. To be a winner though
you don’t have to play a role. If you want to focus on the cards and play good
poker, just be yourself. Conservative or aggressive, it doesn’t matter, just
run with whichever makes you the most comfortable, so you can make the best
decisions while at the table.

Table Presence

Finding your
approach in live gameplay is the next step to elevating your game. Whether it’s
a conservative conceal and don’t reveal strategy or the aggressive engage your
opponents to gauge their reactions approach; figure out which makes you most
comfortable. The more at ease you are on the felt, the better your
decision-making, and the faster you’re into the money.

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