Adopting a Table Persona
Oct 15, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

One of the many enjoyable aspects of poker is that it's an escape from the real world. When you sit at the poker table, online or in a casino, nothing says you have to be the same person you are when you're at work or with your family. Taking on a different persona at the table can not only be an escape from everyday life - it can also be a weapon in your arsenal. The most important thing to consider when adopting a table persona isn't how it will affect your opponents - any persona can be used to maximum advantage when it's played well. What you should really be considering is whether you enjoy playing your character. Not being completely one with the persona you choose while playing means you can't be as effective at using it against your opponents, which in turn means you'll be less effective than you'd be if you just played as yourself. Make sure before you take on a different identity that you'll be comfortable with it.

Here are a few ideas for changing up your appearance at the table to throw your opponents off:

The Newbie

One of the most powerful weapons you can use against your opponents is their own overconfidence, and nothing makes a player believe he has a right to win more than playing against fresh meat. If you're playing online, a good start to adopting the newbie personality is to choose a screen name that makes other think you're just sitting down to have fun while you throw your chips away. Something like CelebrityPokerFan might just do the trick; picking a name that refers to a character in Rounders like TeddyKGB23 or MikeMcD14 can work just as well.

In live play, a little more work is required because you have to look the part. Wearing sunglasses in a 2-4 game can go a long way toward making you look like you have no idea what you're doing. So can wearing t-shirts with catchy poker phrases printed on them. Whether you're playing live or online, though, you'll want to make sure that you talk a lot and say things like, "Is this anything like playing on Yahoo poker?" Also good is, "So what's the difference between hold'em poker and Pai Gow Poker?"

This persona works best if you are good at playing a slightly loose-aggressive game. If you play too tightly, smarter players may see through your act and recognize that you're much more experienced than you're putting on.

The Jerk

Nice guys don't always finish last in poker, especially when they pretend to be jerks. Turning into a table captain who berates his opponents and bosses them around is a great way to make the table hate you, which leads to tilting opponents and - in theory - more chips coming your way. I don't recommend that you play this part in a live casino, as it can be physically dangerous. I also don't recommend playing this character if you're going to feel bad about it later - the goal is to give you an edge, and if you feel bad you won't play well. You don't have to go overboard and lob personal insults to play this part - simply telling opponents how badly they play or rubbing in your victories can set an entire table on tilt.

If you're going to be a jerk at the table, it's best to play a tight, solid game because you'll get called down more often by worse starting hands. Think Phil Hellmuth and you've got the idea. Just be aware that, like Hellmuth, you'll probably suffer some bad beats along the way to taking your opponents' entire stacks.

The Woman

For some reason, many men erroneously assume that women don't play poker well simply because they are women. These guys have probably never heard of Cyndy Violette or Kathy Liebert - and you should be very glad that they haven't. It goes without saying that women can simply be themselves and take advantage, but smart men can also take advantage of these chauvinists when playing online by choosing a screen name that suggests they're actually women. The easiest way, of course, is simply to choose a female name. If you're having trouble coming up with one, think of a song with a woman's name in the title and go with that. It doesn't particularly matter what the name is, just so long as your screen name and avatar appear to be female.

If you're pretending to be female, especially a ditzy female, men who disrespect women players will call you down more often than they would otherwise. That means you should probably play a tight game to take full advantage of your table persona. The chauvinists may suck out on you occasionally, but over time you'll be the winner.

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