How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut

Jamie Gold
Keep your mouth shut, regardless of what you see on tv.

Part 8 of our 10-part series for beginner poker players, this next article focuses on the importance of withholding information from your opponents.

Texas Hold'em is an information game. The more information you have (and the better you are at acquiring it), the better you'll do.

One of the biggest edges you can get over your opponents is having more information than them about the hand in play.

So why on earth would you offer up that information to them when they need it most?

Fishing for Info

The more you talk during a hand, the greater the chance of you inadvertently giving away information about your hand or your possible actions.

For this reason, many poker players will fish for information simply by getting you to talk to them.

Some of the most common - and more blatant - angles are:

  • Do you want me to call?
  • My bet didn't scare you at all, hey?
  • Will you show if I fold?

Some questions are even disguised to seem unrelated:

  • How many chips do you have left?

This question is asked just as often to goad you into talking as it's asked to actually find out how many chips you have.

A strong poker player knows exactly how many chips you have in front of you; they only asked to hear you talk.

Mike Matusow
The Anti-Quiet.

It's Not What You Say

Typically, it's not what you say at the table that gives away information. It's how you say it.

A human under stress does odd things. When you make a move that inspires someone to try and fish for information, you're very likely already under some stress - or about to be.

If you're not under stress - or show no signs of it at least - that's even as much of a tell as if you are.

Observant players who are great at reading people can gauge almost exactly how strong you think your hand is by how you interact with them.

Pauses, inflection, breathing, your eye line ... all of these come together as information for your opponent.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

You are under no obligation to answer a person's questions at the poker table.

If you're not acutely aware of your image, or you don't have strict control over your own emotions, actions and reactions at the table, chances are you want to stay silent.

Just like everything else in poker, if you don't do it the same way every time, then everything can be a tell. If you only answer questions when you have the nuts, people will catch on to that.

Keep your mouth shut, and you can guarantee that you don't give away any information.

At the same time, no need to be a jerk. If someone asks you a non-poker question (not during a hand), obviously reply and converse in any way you see fit.

As soon as that conversation becomes poker related, it's time to do your best Marcel Marceau impersonation.

The next edition of How Not to Suck at Poker explores the importance of keeping records.

More on how not to suck at poker:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game

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