Seven Things I Have Learned From Playing Poker
Some people have a knack for poker and others need to improve their skills through hard work. There are aggressive players while others stay more conservative. However this article is not reviewing how to play poker or improve one’s abilities. My purpose here is to outline things I have learned about myself and human nature during my many hours spent behind the cards.
Before I begin, I would like to point out that I am by no means some type of professional player or possess skills far beyond the norm. I have won a few thousand dollars over the years and won a free seat in the World Series of Poker, so I suppose I do not suck at the game either. Now, with the air cleared, allow me to review a few things I have learned along the way.
1. People Make Poor Choices When you Tick Them Off
In poker we often call working an opponent up, putting them ‘On Tilt.’ In some respects you are actually controlling another’s behavior, which can be fun and often profitable. Of course there are thousands of other arenas where one can make this happen.
In poker you can tease a person into calling that bet or perhaps look like you are going to fold so they bet low because they think they are stringing you along, when in fact you have a hand that will clubber them. One of the best ways to get someone to call is to tick them off. When I act cocky, they get angry and want to see me go down. I might as well be using hypnotism because I am forcing them to make my choice and not theirs.
2. Letting People Win Lowers Their Guard
Want to take some something from someone or get them to do what you want? Sure you can go toe to toe and grind it out, or you can let them get their way early. Human nature often absorbs what happens first and neglects to take into account what happens third, fourth, and fifth.
In poker if I want to drain a wallet, I let them win at first. They think they are unstoppable and start making sloppy choices, because hey the day is theirs and they can not lose. The next thing you know you have all their chips and they are buying more, because, they were ruling the table before and they are sure they can again.
When I start a new job, I make sure I am early to work for the first two months. Then I become the early to work guy. Later if I am late it will not be noticed because the preconception remains that I am the early guy. Doing things first sets the stage. People think that is the way of things despite the reality of the situation as time passes by.
3. Talking Distracts People
This may seem obvious, but in the real world it can prove very helpful. When you babble on you distract people from what they are doing and limit their thought process and choices. In poker if I do not want a guy to raise the bet, I talk his ear off, he gets distracted and is more likely to just call.
Outside of poker this can work well when you want someone to overlook something. A quick example is my bank. If I have a low balance, but a new check is in my hand, in theory the bank is not supposed to let me keep a chunk of money from that check which is over what I currently have in my account. If I want more cash, I just talk up the teller, they get distracted and let me get as much cash back as I want.
4. Sometimes Longevity Wins
Over time, skill and knowledge can often be surpassed by constitution and longevity. When things drag out often the only the strong survive or at least rise to the surface. Many a night found me the last man standing, since I was more or less the last man standing. Also when you are the last man standing you get all of the food and anything else left around.
5. Being friendly keeps you off the Chopping Block
This does not always work, but often if you are getting along with another player and making them laugh, they are less likely to want to hammer you out of the game, at least at first. This can cross over to normal life even more than at the table. Is the boss going to lay off the employee he likes the best? Are you going to nark out your pal for something? Being friendly also gets you perks and makes people want to help you out. Even if you do not mean it, it tends to be a good call.
6. Doing Someone a Favor also keeps you off the Chopping Block
This one is simple. Are you going to go out of your way to bust on a person that just bought you a drink? Are you going to talk trash on the guy that just drove you to the campsite? Again, in most cases no. Sometimes those small favors can come back and give you huge pay offs.
7. Poker helps you learn what a Person is really like
We all wear different faces and more often than not they are fake. People tend to hide their true selves away and most of us will rarely see what lurks below the surface. That nice guy at work might be beating his children or that polite fellow at the steak house is so talkative because he just smoked a blow of meth.
I have been known to say that two ways of really getting to know a person are to either go on a long road trip with them or take them camping. You learn pretty quick where they fall on the motivation versus selfishness bell curve. Another, perhaps less labor intensive way to start to get a grasp on a person is to play poker with them. Are they aggressive or conservative? Do they take risks or anger easily? How simple is it for others to manipulate them. Money is important to most of us, when you start taking it from someone, their true colors might just be shown.
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I hope you enjoyed this piece and the next time you play poker keep in mind what you might be able to learn about the person across from you or perhaps more importantly, what are they learning about you.
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