Should you use smartphones at the table?



I’m a pro; I can use my cell phone at the table because I know what to do.

Smartphones, love them or hate them, are a part of life and they’re important for work, play and everything in between. So what’s their place at the poker table? How much time can you dedicate to smartphone usage? Should you do it at all?

The answer is, in a perfect world, you would spend 100 percent of your time off of your phone and pay attention at the table. That would give you the best edge and the most information. The problem is it’s not realistic; poker can get boring and it’s right there. So what do I do to solve this problem? I have three rules.

FIRST RULE: I don’t use headphones. I want to hear everything players say. Many people will put on their huge headphones, sunglasses, put up their hoodie and bust out their tablet. They’re losing action, information and sanity. I listen to and talk to everyone. Especially at the lower limits, players will often tell you their holdings if you let them.

SECOND RULE: For the first hour of the table, I keep that phone in my pocket, no matter what. This lets me learn as much as I can about the players at the table. I consider it “deep work.” This means I’m keeping myself distraction-free and focusing on the task at hand. I have a smartwatch in case I get a notification that’s super important, but otherwise I pay attention to everything. It’s really easy to miss the time someone three-bet with the 5-3 and it will ruin your range calculations later. 

THIRD RULE: Once I let myself use the phone, I do nothing that requires a long amount of attention. No movies, no games, no drawings. You need to be disciplined with what you use the phone for and it needs to be purposeful. Answer an important email, answer a text, etc. When you’re done using it for a little bit, it goes back in your pocket. It doesn’t sit on the table in front of you face up so you can continue to be tempted to check it.

Smartphone addiction is a problem in all areas of life and you would do well to use airplane mode more often. However, your job as a pro is to gain information so you can make superior decisions. Your phone never can contribute to that, unless it’s a tournament and you’re using snapshove, so use it sparingly. — Brent Philbin

Chris Cosenza

Chris Cosenza