PN Blog: Poker is Theatre –

Question: In what popular game does the appearance of strength rival actual strength in affecting the outcome of competition?

Before I respond, I can state confidently from personal experience and observation that the illusion of strength quickly dissolves over a chess or scrabble board. Nor does swagger get you many free points on a tennis court. In most individual competitions, unless the rivals are evenly matched, the result can be anticipated with near certainty.

“Presenting an image is a way of staking out territory and defining pecking order.”

You can understand a lot about tournament poker by familiarizing yourself with mathematical probabilities. That information can be enhanced with awareness of reads, relative stack size, table texture, etc. etc. The combined value of all the non-quantifiables produces the gap between people who play poker and people who PLAY poker.

Among the intangibles that might be undervalued by some players is table presence. For many, this may include meaningless commentary such as “I knew he had two overs” or some obvious and counterproductive remark about someone else’s decision. The majority of chatter shared in this fashion is either obvious or inaccurate, so it is easy to ignore.

Ten people who sit down together for the first time govern their behavior like any group of primates. Players are sized up according to their age, sex, size, voice, and other even less meaningful stuff. Presenting an image is a way of staking out territory and defining pecking order.

My personal techniques vary according to the group I’m sharing a table with. I can be talkative and playful if that seems appropriate, but a performance like that founders without the responsive intelligent feedback that encourages one to persist.

Poker is theatre, after all, and if I feel I can gain traction by seeming silent

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