#151: “I Got The Moves Like Jaka”

I’ve been playing on the live Irish circuit for about a year now. For the first 6 months, I en
joyed the anonymity of not being known by anyone at my table but these days, I am a familiar face and, well, an even more familiar voice. During the Irish Open, Daragh Davey told me that he could make a pretty accurate guess as to how many chips I had from the other side of a poker room just from how loudly and how much I was speaking.

I think the equation goes something like this:

decibels X words per min + # of times clock I have called the clock = # of BBs
deep breaths             number of tweets about hating live poker

So, suffice to say, I get asked a lot about my table talk.

The truth is I am a naturally outgoing person and compulsive chatterbox. I find live poker pretty dull so it makes the entire experience more enjoyable if I try to make friends and get to know my table-mates. Does it also give me an advantage? I think so. However, some of my fellow-pros disagree. Padraig O’Neill recently questioned me on a conversation I started at the table about Sharkscope. He said mentioning this immediately gave away the information that I was an online player. Of course, he is correct but I don’t think it matters that you give away information as long as you are in control of the information you give away. All I merely did in this instance was introduce the possibility of a leveling war with some of my table-mates and I am the best Roshambo player I know.

I am really strong in the fundamentals of poker and for the most part, my edge exists there. The thing about live poker, though, is that there are loads of other edges. One of them is in diverging from optimal strategy versus certain types of weak opponents that are more numerous and more easily identified in a mid-stakes live setting. There are a dozen guys who are regulars in Irish casinos who are absolutely horrendous when it comes to the abc of poker strategy yet they make money year in, year out. I’ve sat opposite them and watched them make horrific errors (and they are errors) with a short stack but they get away with it. Why? Because it is fine to play exploitably if it isn’t in the arsenal of your opponent to exploit you.

I also believe there is an enormous edge to be found by pushing people’s buttons and getting them out of their comfort zone. If I can get a nitty player to play back at me with a wide range then I have a huge advantage because he doesn’t have the same experience as me at navigating the waters of post-flop play without a premium hand. I will have a greater understanding of the ranges he and I can represent and it will be far more likely that he will slip up when telling a consistent story over multiple streets.

There is also a ton of value in inducing bluffs from the looser guys who want to knock you off your perch as table captain. At the UKIPT in Nottingham, I donk-bet the turn on a 258-5 board after the flop went check-check. The river came a 9 and before checking, I told the villain that I had 44 and I knew it was good so his only way to win was bluff with his ace-high. I checked, he overbet the pot and I snapped. He showed ace-high and I showed him 44.

I am still learning the tricks of the ‘live pro’ but to quote the flamboyant Faraz Jaka who is a polarising figure in the poker community, “Live poker is a hustle to me and playing it, I have learned a lot about people and their psychology… how people react to things, how they respond to me”. I think this is very true. Faraz is a master of table-talk and provocation. He bosses his table and puts his opponents off kilter. Relentlessly attacking them on all fronts, he play’s Jedi mind games, then he 3-bets them and even if they successfully tune him out with their I-Pod and headphones, they still have to contend with his bedazzling rings and Sideshow-Bob hair.