It was in 2005 when I sent my first text at the poker table. Some lunatic girl of my past was complaining how I wasn’t treating her right and I had stopped taking her phone calls because I was playing. Then she sent me a text. I had never texted before so I was intrigued. I sat there for the next hour and a half fiddling with my phone sending and reading messages.
A little bit later I got involved in a $6000 pot with a player I had never seen before. He stacked me on a pretty bizarre hand. Some of the other regulars looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. ‘Didn’t you watch how that guy has been playing over the last hour”, they said. You would think that I would have learned my lesson right there.
Flash forward to the summer of 2008 when I got my first smartphone. Now I could read emails and surf the web in real time. “How brilliant, I won’t be bored at the poker table,” I thought. Little did I know that this was going to be the beginning of one of the biggest leaks in my poker game.
Recognizing betting patterns is one of the biggest parts of becoming a successful poker player. You should pay close attention to what is being shown down at your table, as this information will allow you to play better against your opponents in the future. Especially when dealing with unknowns, poker is a game of incomplete information. But there are different stages of this incomplete information. You can come to a new tournament table where you know no one and have no reads. Or you can be at a cash game where you are familiar with everyone and have been paying close attention. Where do you think that you will do better?
I see a lot of regulars fool around on their phones because they think they are super familiar with all of their opponents. The problem with this is that our opponents do not play the same when they are winning or when they are losing. Recognizing who is on short-term tilt is absolutely paramount and can greatly increase your win rate. I have the advantage of doing commentary on Live at the Bike where I can actually see all of the players’ hole cards. Even after losing a small pot some players will call raises with total garbage like Q4s or J6os just because they got a small bad beat the hand before. You can see why paying attention to these spots is so important.
Recently I was playing in a $2000 tournament at the Commerce casino and Gavin Griffin was at my table. I made a pretty suspect call off for all of my chips and was busted out. Later Gavin tweeted me to say that messing around with your phone is definitely -ev in tournaments (something I had been doing at the table). From that point on I made a pact to myself that I would no longer fool around with electronics while I played because they are too distracting. Treat your poker like any other job and pay attention.