Stud: Table demeanor

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

I would like to continue discussing the concept of table and game demeanor.

Last week, I brought up the name Danny Robison, who I used to play a lot of high limit stud poker against. I considered him a great player, and one whom I also learned from.

When I say “learned from,” I do not only mean strategy while playing. I also mean his game persona and demeanor at the poker table.

I think it is important to learn from others, and even incorporate some of their habits. This not only applies to poker, but to virtually everything in life. But, since we are all individuals, we have to pick and choose what is best for ourselves. Our psyches and personalities have to be taken into consideration, as well as our physical makeup and the aura we give off to other people.

David Heyden was another excellent stud player during those years. Like Danny, David was a big winning player. But David was Danny’s antithesis in virtually every aspect, both on and off the poker table.

Whereas Danny was gregarious, slovenly, absent minded, and played “fast and loose,” David used to come into the poker room dressed in a suit and bowtie, with close-cropped salt and pepper hair, closely trimmed beard, and wearing horn-rimmed eyeglasses. While Danny would be chatting non-stop, David would rarely utter a word at the table.

Even their eating habits were different. Danny was overweight and ate like a vacuum. David was slim, and would eat salads, drink tea, etc.

All of their outward non-poker behavioral characteristics were reflected in their styles of play at the poker table.

Danny played a lot of hands, aggressively. David was much more selective, and was more of a check and call player. Because of his style, Danny would get much more in-hand action, as well as getting paid off on a lot of hands which his opponents would lay down against other good players. That was very profitable for him. Conversely, David would not get the same type of action, but he usually won the hands he played, and he was also able to bluff hands, which was profitable for him as well. Danny could rarely get away with a bluff (though he might talk you out of calling).

The bottom line is that both their completely different styles were profitable to them in different ways.

Another aspect of David’s play intrigued me. Many of us who competed in the casinos have people “sweat” us, sit behind us while playing. Or, we’d be involved in conversations about who knows what topic while in the poker game. Danny thrived on distractions – he created them to try to put his opponents off their games.

David never allowed himself to do that. He was “all business”, all the time.

This is a very important thing to be aware of, whether you are playing in a live casino or online. Distractions can rarely be good for you. They cause you to make mistakes, and mistakes are costly. While playing online gives you even more ways to distract yourself, i.e., television, internet surfing, telephone, family, etc., it is also much easier to avoid all of those things. In casinos, there is only so much you can do to block out discussions at the table, the lights, the noise, the TVs, the cocktail waitresses, etc., which are constant.

When you play online, you are completely in control of your environment, and have the ability to minimize distractions. I strongly recommend that you work in solitude, preferably in a room with some fresh air, that is well lit and quiet.

You should also invest in high speed and quality internet services, as well as a high level computer, whether it is a laptop or desk top. I also recommend using a wireless mouse. It is easier to click, which may lessen your mistakes. Just be sure to keep the batteries fresh!

I also have a 23”monitor swivel hinged on my wall directly above my 13” laptop computer. I use my monitor solely for online poker play. I split this screen into quads to enable me to play in up to three games concurrently and have the PokerStars lobby in the fourth quadrant. That way, I can keep an eye on what is going on in games that I am not in, without getting distracted from my own play.

Turn off your phones. If you need to speak on the phone or take care of online business, either take a break from the poker game or quit and come back to play when you are free of all other commitments and distractions.

Do not watch television or surf the internet while playing online poker.

The higher the stakes you play, the more important it is to have a backup internet connection, which is through an entirely different provider. There’s little more frustrating to an internet player than having their ISP go dead in the middle of a key hand or a tournament. Even short disconnections can be frustrating and distracting, so having a backup is great for your peace of mind.

Although you may be proud of your accomplishments as a poker player, and want to show off by letting family or friends watch you while playing, I recommend against it. The results can only be negative for you. Either you will make decisions that you normally would not because someone is watching, or you will get distracted while explaining your decisions. And of course you might find yourself getting involved in other discussions unrelated to the games. This recommendation applies regardless of what type of poker player you are, whether you are playing for fun, working as a professional or just trying to earn a little extra money.

As important as these things are, I also advise you to never let your poker playing interfere with other aspects of your life, whether professional, personal, or financial. This means that when you are out with family or friends in a venue completely outside of the poker world, do not start thinking about or discussing what happened in your last poker session.

And never take your poker frustrations out on other people.

Poker is a social game, and you may find that you develop lasting friendships. It’s just important to have some perspective on these relationships. In a sense, you’re not just judging your opponents on the table, but also off the table.

For example, I think that getting together with your poker peers to solely discuss poker play can be fun and potentially profitable. However, because this game is so “cutthroat,” many of our peers, who may also be good friends, do not want to discuss poker strategy because they do not want to give away their edge (perceived or otherwise) while playing against you.

Discussion with friends can be helpful, but I think honest self-analysis is vital to improving your play and results. I suggest analyzing your whole “poker package”, i.e., money management, table demeanor, etc., the concepts we have been covering in these blogs. To this day, after many years of playing professionally, I will analyze my play and specific hands after a session. Unfortunately, that too often happens at 3 AM in a nightmare…..just kidding.

Just as in other aspects of life, we have to hone our performance to enable us to reap the best results possible (monetarily and otherwise). We will continue on this topic nest week.

In the meantime, you can find me in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit games in our Stud section, as well as in our weekly $215 buy-in tournaments. Please check the starting times of each of those events for your geographic area under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or thoughts at See you at the tables!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy