The Art of Table Talk: More Than Strategy, It's Good For the Game

There is no doubt that poker has changed a lot over the years.

From dingy back rooms in underground clubs to the bright lights of Vegas and the modern glory of poker as we know it today.

There are a lot of reasons why poker boomed and continued to grow in popularity during the 2000’s and onward. 

One of those reasons is undoubtedly the boisterous characters that have shaped modern televised poker.

Phil Hellmuth

Names like Phil Hellmuth, Tony G, Mike Matusow and Daniel Negreanu instantly come to mind. 

If table talk was an art form, these guys might be considered Picasso. 

Some new-age poker players, however, prefer to sit under their hoodies with headphones covering their ears.

They pay their buy-ins like everyone else, so that’s their choice, but they undoubtedly still have to deal with table talk every day at the poker table.

Like it or not, banter is a part of live poker and that’s not likely to change.

Players can either make it a weapon in their arsenal, ignore it altogether or be indifferent towards it.

Friendly Talk Can Help You Succeed

One player who certainly uses table talk as a weapon is 2013 WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Reiss.

Riess doesn’t try to tilt his opponents with table talk like some of his contemporaries such as Tony G. Riess instead makes friends with his opponent and uses that to his advantage. 

“I feel like something as small as creating conversation with the person on your left or right can really help your game,” Riess says.

“Then when you get into those blind versus blind situations or I’m raising from the button they are probably less likely to three-bet me if I’ve been talking to them and we have had like a friendly conversation or camaraderie going on.”

Jackie Glazier

Prominent Australian pro Jackie Glazier shares a similar sentiment to Riess.

For most people it’s not too much of a challenge to simply be nice and treat someone with respect.

“If you make friends with someone at the table, they may then show me their cards if I make a fold on the river to them,” Glazier says.

“I feel like I really get shown a lot more cards by being nice to people at the table and that gives me more information and therefore more of an edge.”

Recent 2013 WSOP Millionaire Maker victor Jonathan Dimmig isn’t so explicit in using the “making-friends” method that Riess and Glazier seem to be utilizing, but he still uses table talk to get an extra edge.

“I definitely use table talk as a strategy sometimes,” Dimmig says. “When you talk to someone and find out how they think, you can really get a feel for what they are doing and then use that to your advantage when making decisions.”

Table Talk as Means of Manipulation

Table talk isn’t just about being nice to your opponents or getting extra information. Sometimes you can simply manipulate a player to make a decision they may not usually make. Or you can even talk yourself into the making the wrong decision.

There was great example of the power of table talk back at the $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop at the 2014 WSOP.  Basically, Scott Seiver moved all in with an open-ended straight draw on the turn of a queen-high board with three clubs showing.

Seiver’s opponent, German high roller specialist Tobias Reinkemeier, went into the tank on the turn and started with the banter. At first it seemed like Reinkemeier was trying to use table talk to his advantage by getting some extra information from Seiver.

However, Seiver may have out-talked Reinkemeier and the German’s table talk may have had a negative effect as he seemed to have levelled himself.

Talking for the Good of the Game

Ryan Riess

There are more reasons than just strategy for table talk. You could also make an argument that table talk is important to the health of the game. Poker should be a fun, inviting place for recreational players.

If someone walks into a poker room for the first time and is berated for their bad play, or is just made to feel uncomfortable at all, they may never play poker again. That’s simply not good for the game.

Poker should be fun. It’s a simple statement but something that seems to have been lost on some players, be they those who berate others they think are not as good as them, or even those that just sit there saying nothing.

“Table talk is just straight up good for poker,” Riess adds. “It’s obviously better than everyone just sitting there like statues, not saying anything.”

Dimmig agrees with Riess.

“Table talk is definitely good for the game as it makes it fun” says Dimmig.

“I hated when they brought the no talking during hands rule into the game. I mean having people like Daniel Negreanu talking and having fun at the table is definitely good for the game.”

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