Keep your poker game loose, fun

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Your name just got called for your $2-$5 no-limit hold’em seat. You arrive at the table and start stacking your chips. You look around and six of the players at the table are wearing huge headphones, five have backpacks on their chairs, three are watching videos on their tablets and nobody’s smiling.

Is this a game for you? Of course not. Your average casino fish doesn’t want to play in this game, either.

Your reasons are different than theirs, but the result is the same. Some of these players might be pros, too, but they’re discouraging action in the game. Part of your responsibility as a pro is to provide some entertainment for the losing players. This helps your hourly rate and helps those around you feel better about their life decisions. Other tips:

CONSIDER YOUR IMAGE: I don’t bring a backpack to the table, despite knowing full well how much easier it would make my life if I had one. I don’t wear headphones, sunglasses or a hoodie when I play, either. Novices don’t enjoy playing with “those stupid Internet kids” at their tables and pros might be able to assume some true things about me quicker if they see me in that uniform. I encourage you to follow this example and present an image to the players at the table that’s fun and light-hearted.

BE SILLY: Don’t do anything against casino regulations, but silly games will keep people entertained in a game that can become monotonous. There’s still a whole group of people out there who remember the “bucket” game on a poker cruise: Each $500-plus pot means the winner must purchase a bucket of beer. Imagine a poker table where there were three times more buckets of beer than people to drink them. That’s action.

Don’t look for an edge in these stupid games; just try to make them fun. Maybe everyone that wins a pot needs to show one card or maybe you bet on how many episodes of Dance Moms the floorman has seen. Just keep it fun.

DON’T MAKE NOVICES UNCOMFORTABLE: The primary example of this would be pressuring the table into a round of straddles. This is something that can be beneficial in some circumstances, but usually what happens will be that you make the most inexperienced players in the game the most uncomfortable. The same goes for adding games to create a mixed game or increasing the max buy-in.

Do what you can to keep your table laughing and putting chips in the pot, but don’t make them uncomfortable about it.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.