Just like the first day of school, it can be a daunting task even for tour regulars, to turn up at an international poker event like this and fit in. Not everyone wants to draw attention to themselves, and preferring instead to slip in unnoticed. For many the fear of embarrassment is enormous.
That’s why we have produced various self-help guides over the years, such as “How to Play the PCA”, and “Using Hunch to Judge Your Opponent“. Each can claim credit for saving a player from worry or embarrassment. What’s more their portable nature means these guides can be cut out and kept next to your chips on the table. If you’re worried that people might notice this, remember that the likes of David Vamplew, Mickey Petersen and Rupert Elder*, each referred to these guides on their way to victory on the Tour.
It’s easy to feel like an outsider
You might want to start by listening to people clear their nose and throat. Don’t worry about the noise. They’re simply expressing themselves in the usual way, much like an animal’s call in the jungle, marking its territory, communicating with friends. Listening to this will help you understand that other players are just ordinary folk like you and me.
Go to the gents for a comfort break and then remove any germs from your hands with soap and water. Replace the germs by touching the door handle last used by someone who skipped this stage. This will strengthen your immune system which is about to undergo a punishing 12 hours of play.
Find a place to take in what’s going on. At this point you have several options. If you see someone you know approach them and start a conversation. If you see someone you half know do the same. If you don’t know anyone you’re most realistic option is to look like someone in deep thought. Pace the hallway, perhaps while sipping water from a bottle. Look like you’re in the zone or at least looking for the zone. Put headphones on to ensure that nobody sees you and thinks they can talk to you out of the blue. Nobody likes that. This is also what mobile phones were invented for.
You should know by now that it’s vital you do not arrive at your table first. If we have to say this again and again (and we do) we will. It’s something which has been scientifically proven to seriously hamper your chances of success. However, occupying yourself with every conceivable distraction under the sun does not, so set about plugging in iPads and Pods to keep you from thinking too much about the game itself. The last thing you want is to suddenly realise you’ve just spent €5,000 to play.
Distractions are essential. Bring as many as you can carry.
Next, accept that the “doobie-doobie-do” intro music will be in your head for some time. Also, try to work out whether the player opposite is someone you’ve seen on television before.
You’ll know that these relaxation techniques have worked because you’ll be gripped by the need to take a selfie with the players to your left and right. In order to visually express your contentment, be sure to open your mouth as wide as possible so the people on twitter will be under no illusion that your life is better than theirs.
Lastly, and this is an old trick learned over many seasons on the tour, when the lights go down for the introductions, use the light from ElkY’s hair and accessories to guide you to your seat.
And that’s it. Now clear your throat, get yourself out there and give them hell.
* This is almost certainly true.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.