Trash Talking to Poker Opponents – Does It Really Work?

The “good ol’ days” when poker games were mostly quiet and played by people with the proverbial “poker faces”seems to be gone, with the influx of “trash talking” both in online and in live poker games.

The question being asked by many players is whether trash talking works or not.

The Emergence of Trash Talking

Trash talking is a natural part of poker, mainly because it is a game which involves equal parts psychology and bluff: rattling your opponents is always a good thing, especially if it pushes them into making mistakes.  The activity is kept under control during live games, however, because it is not unheard of for fights to break out between players or, as in many Westerns or gangster movies, for people to start shooting over a bad hand or an uncalled for remark.

Trash talking appears to be a commonplace event in today’s casinos and poker rooms.  Some observers attribute it to the popularity of online poker – of which many players “graduate” to live games, carrying their internet playing habits with them.  Online poker players are used to playing alone or with themselves so they usually pace around and talk to themselves.  Moreover, people who are quite verbose in online games (players online converse through chat boards in the online casino) have a hard time getting out of the habit of using “talk” to distract their opponents.

Whereas online, other opponents can merely tune out such talk (by closing the chat window), it’s harder to tune out talk during live games.

The other culprit they point to is television coverage of poker games, such as the World Series of Poker with some players actually playing to the camera.  They note that the objective remains the same – to rattle the other players into making mistakes – but the camera picks this up and makes it seem that it is all right to do so, which gets the practice perpetuated.

But Does It Work as Part of Your Poker Strategy?

Experts are divided on the matter, usually saying that it depends on the players at the game – and whether you’re playing online or live.

In general, experts believe that trash talking online doesn’t really work – mainly because it is an anonymous game played over the internet, and ‘trash talk’ is limited to online text messages that are easy to ignore.  More importantly, the action goes swiftly at online poker games – cards are dealt swiftly, people raise or fold just as fast, and hands are over and done with in minutes – leaving little time or opportunity for all-out trash talking.

Focus is important in online games.  This is the main reason why most attempts at trash talk or rattling your opponents with words seldom works.

Live games, on the other hand, are another matter.  Some people are definitely affected by trash talkers to the point of losing their focus on the game.  Nevertheless, experts note that the more experienced or top caliber players are not easily sidetracked.

Veteran poker players cannot easily get rattled because they’ve “been there, done that” and they’ve learned their lessons early on.  If and when they lose in a game with a trash talker, bad cards, rather that the trash talk is generally the reason.

In the end, most experts advise caution when trash talking at a live poker game as a poker strategy.  At best, you’ll weed out the ‘weak’ players but you’ll end up playing with those who are not affected by your antics who may just be tempted to make you lose your stack and to make you eat your cards to shut you up.

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