Forget mathematics, profiling picks winners


Much has been written this week of the mathematical element to poker and its significance among the modern player – certainly those seen regularly on the magazine covers photographed behind massive piles of dollar bills. Even the Wall Street Journal made this point in a recent piece, using the backdrop of the World Series of Poker to examine the evolution of poker thinking.

But is it all about numbers? Could this assumption that talent, skill, and natural genius are key, be nothing more than convenient when we all know that the real determining factor of who wins and who doesn’t is profiling?

Winners, and losers, are easy to spot. You just need to know what to look for – the behaviour that encapsulates a champion and those signs that flag up someone heading for an early bath – in the police identity parade that is a modern poker tournament.

So those looking to leapfrog their way to the spotlight could help their cause by taking note of the following key behaviours.

Never sit down first

This is a rule broken by many new players who are first to take their seat, usually some 20 minutes before the start. These poor devils rule themselves out of any chance of glory by getting comfortable before anyone else has turned up, with their backpack neatly stowed beneath their chair. They’re left with no choice but to talk to the dealer, who squirms their way through a conversation about home towns and family. Of course they squirm – they know this guy cannot win. Meanwhile the winners arrive late, carrying a 32 ounce drink with a straw.

Don’t wear leather shoes

Actually this extends to any form of neatly ironed clothing. Winners simply don’t wear this stuff anymore and frankly, if you’re not in the clothes you threw on the bedroom floor last night, then your chances of victory are slim at best. Your only hope is to get yourself to the nearest sports outfitter where you can load up on branded sportswear. You’ll feel less ridiculous when the photographer is asking you to hold up the winning hand.

Talk only of poker

This cannot be stressed enough. All that talk about what you do for a living can be saved for the dealer when you arrive 20 minutes early. Talking of anything but the game exposes you as a part-timer, an amateur ripe for the picking. Unless your brain works only on sounds like “VPIP” and “value”, you don’t have a chance. Instead, stick to talking about old hands, strategy, odds and mathematics. Talk of mathematics will set you up very well.

Wait, mathematics?