EPT10 Barcelona: Mike McDonald talks blinking and The Stare™
When Mike McDonald first shook the EPT circuit he used a particular facial expression to instill fear into his opponents. It was his grin. When the then 18-year-old grinned he revealed a front row of gap teeth harnessed by braces. It was a stark reminder that you had just been destroyed by a mind half your age and ten times as potent as yours at the poker table.
In the five and a half years since then McDonald's secret weapon has faded, as his teeth straightened into a perfect Colgate smile. So McDonald came up with another approach, something obvious to anyone who has watched him either in person or on TV, or more notably, been in a hand with him. It's called "The Stare™".
It really is quite something. As McDonald plays a hand his body goes still, his head turns to the player taking him on and he stares at them. What's more his blinking becomes steady and appears calculated, a slow blink that asks "just what the hell do you think you're doing?" In combination with The Stare™ it is a formidable sight.
Sure The Stare™ is premeditated, but as far as McDonald is concerned the blinking, is purely accidental.
McDonald brings out The Stare™
"Maybe it's related to my breathing or something but I don't have set timing of my blinking or anything," said McDonald. "I think it's just when I'm in a hand I try to be extra focused. Normally I blink a lot. I try to be as calm as possible at the table. Maybe that causes the slow blinking."
Conscious or not it has in the past proved devastating, as we've reported in the past. But then McDonald couples it with a unique talent, just in case you thought you could start eyeballing the guy in your home game and hope to cash in.
"Lately I've been doing the stare a little bit less," said McDonald, confessing to some standards. "Level one of a 1k -- I won't do that. But deep in a Super High Roller I do think it gives an advantage." At this point McDonald paused for a second. "I think I brought out The Stare™ a couple of hours ago."
He did, and it worked. But does it work on everyone?
"Not in this field," said McDonald. "I do think there are going to be little things I'll pick up on, and also it makes people less interested in playing pots against me, which is always nice.
Others, like Ole Schemion (right), have tried their own version of The Stare™, but with different results...
"Against bad players I think it's hugely relevant. In a tournament like this, even the guys remaining who aren't very good, they're still accustomed to playing for high stakes. None of these guys are playing their first tournament or anything so it's not hugely beneficial."
So while you may still see The Stare™ as you watch McDonald on EPTLive, its effectiveness will depend on the opponent. But if you're still yet to see one poker's most impressive natural phenomena there's always the Main Event. You'll see it there.
"The stakes are pretty relevant there and there are so many bad players," said McDonald, contemplating when he would be happy to bring out The Stare™. "So probably level one."
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Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.