Check your ego at the card room door.
Language is a powerful tool, and it can be used for or against you. Do you ever let ego affect the way to speak to others at the table? Your words often reveal truths about yourself, for better or worse.
Consider Jordan, who suffers greatly from his ego when playing poker.
Entitlement and Blaming Others
In a brief moment of anger, Jordan says to the dealer, “You just had to put that 7 out there, didn’t you? You couldn’t let my two pair hold up, could you?”
Jordan believes that he is a great player, and he does always try to play his best. Jordan believes he is so good, though, that he never really expects to lose. As a result, he’s prone to get upset when his value hands don’t hold up, and when they don’t he feels that surely it must be someone else’s fault (in this case, the dealers).
Jordan becomes enraged when he loses pots because, in his mind, they were his pots to win. At some point, Jordan forgot that unexpected things happen all the time in poker. More experienced players never forget this, and so they understand that nothing is won until the hand is over. And when they lose it’s not personal. By contrast, you can pick out players who feel like Jordan–players who have a sense of entitlement–by paying attention to their language and mannerisms. Many players get angry, but these players typically direct their anger at others when they lose.
A great counter strategy to use against players of this type is to play your hands A-B-C (i.e., straightforward).
With unrealistic expectations of winning, Jordan has lost the battle before it’s even started, because an essential part of poker is variance. When Jordan loses he will naturally become more upset due to his sense of entitlement, and he will compensate for the losses by being more aggressive and playing more hands. There is sometimes called ‘pressing’.
Again, to really take advantage of players like Jordan, don’t fall into the trap of playing too many hands or trying to run bluffs against him. Instead, play A-B-C poker and be patient.
The ‘Wise’ Player: A Show of Intelligence
“Oh, you’ve got the straight? You made bad call and turn, didn’t you? It’s okay. I don’t need to see. I fold.”
What I’m calling the “Wise Player” loves to let his opponents know that he is no fool, and that you are not getting the best of him. Our ego driven player, Jordan, in addition to feeling entitled to win, loves to show off his intelligence by playing The Wise Player.
Jordan will frequently stereotype other players with only a minimal information. Consider the quote above. That’s Jordan talking to Stuart, an older gentleman who plays frequently. Stuart is a indeed a relatively tight player who has raised Jordan on a scary turn. So, Jordan might be making a good fold. But instead of just mucking without a fuss, Jordan can’t resist letting everyone know that Stuart is not outplaying him–that he is the superior player. His words betray his ego.
The best way to exploit The Wise Player is to listen closely to what he says. For example, Stuart can add more bluffs against Jordan, because Jordan thinks he is incapable of bluffing a scary turn. Stuart can also be more aggressive against Jordan in other spots, slowly adjusting to each opportunity.
In sum, noticing when a player is hamstrung by their own ego will help you find opportunities to exploit them. And I can’t emphasize enough that this is best accomplished by being patient and playing straight forward poker. Jordan, our model egocentric player, is someone you don’t want to do anything fancy against. Better to wait until he essentially declares to the table where he is most vulnerable. And he will. All you have to do is sit back and listen.
(NOTE: if you’re serious about improving your game, I’ve prepared a FREE preflop guide here for you to check out.)