One of the advantages of live poker is that you get to face your opponents, which is not the case when playing online poker. This can have a number of benefits. It can help keep you more focused on the game, it gives you the opportunity to notice tells and other physical cues and it introduces table talk to the equation. Some people fear table talk, and others thrive on it.
Table Talking in Poker
If you’re not a talker and are afraid that talking will give something away to your opponents, you do not have to talk back. Ignoring talking while you are in a hand is not considered rude. It is understood that your opponent is talking to you to try to gain information, and you are in no way required to give it. You may choose to try to give misleading information, but be careful. If you only talk when you are strong or only if you are weak, this can be a big tell.
Using Poker Table Talk to Your Advantage
If you want to use table talk to your advantage, you can do it in two ways. You can “needle,” which is intentionally antagonizing an opponent in the hopes that you will upset him into making a mistake, or you can “probe,” which is asking a question in order to try to determine the strength of your opponent’s hand from his answer.
The Art of Poker Table Talk
Needling is an art. Cursing or insulting your opponent randomly is not a needle, it’s just rude. However, if, for example, you know an opponent is a very by the book, solid player, a good needle after you suck out on him might be to say something like “yeah, I don’t think I had the odds to call there, but sometimes you just feel it, you know? My gut is always right!” as you rake in the chips. You hear these kinds of phrases at all the big live tournaments whether they are playing Texas Holdem or the more advanced poker variant HORSE poker.
When you probe, you are not as interested in the content of your opponent’s answer as HOW he answers. If a third heart comes on the river and you say to your opponent, “you made the flush, huh?” you’re not expecting a yes or no. Does he seem relieved by the question? If so maybe he was afraid YOU hit the flush. Does he clam up? Maybe he hit the flush and doesn’t want to dissuade you from betting out. As a budding master of table talk, you’ll have to decide what it all means.