Poker Behavior Part 1: Talk To Your Monitor

I distinctly remember the first time I saw somebody using a hands-free earbud headset on a phone. Because at the time, I thought he was nuts. I mean, there I was, minding my own business in some airport, when I see this guy talking to himself. He was mindlessly wandering around the gate area chatting, but with no apparent companion. Occasionally he’d stop talking, then he’d start again.

You know, classic crazy behavior.

How was I to know that we, as a society, were about to completely embrace this behavior and all of us would end up talking to imaginary friends. Walk through the airport concourse sometime and ask yourself if it really feels okay that this is happening everywhere around you.

That text above is not as tangential as it might initially seem. I’m about to advocate for talking to an inanimate object—that’s to say, your computer monitor or laptop.

When you’re playing online poker and make an action, how often could you articulate exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing? You know, the pros have an expression for people who don’t know what they’re doing: “He’s just clicking buttons.”

What if we forced ourselves to say—out loud—why we were taking a specific action? Let’s try it:

  • “I’m raising to 2.5 BB to win the blinds and antes. If somebody 3-bets me behind I will fold. If an out-of-position player 3-bets, I will call if the 3-bet is not more than 7.5 BB.”
  • “I’m check-raising this draw with the intent of winning the pot immediately. If the bettor calls, I will continue betting on the turn if a ten, five, or heart comes.”
  • “I am betting my top-pair, top-kicker on the turn. There are many worse hands that can call. This collects equity from those worse hands, and denies equity to flush draws. If I am check-raised, it’s likely that I am beaten, and I will fold.”

Writers are trained to read their copy out loud. The ear/brain combination is a marvelous editing team—far better than the eye/brain combo, which can get sloppy at times.

Similarly, forcing yourself to justify your actions verbally lets that ear/brain team get its, ah, hands, on the idea. A low-quality idea that could slip silently from synapse to synapse might be stopped if it were forced into the light of verbalization.

If you watch the poker streamers behavior on Twitch, you see them doing it. Of course, they have an audience who wants to know what they’re thinking, so the commentary helps the audience along. But it also forces them to crystalize their thoughts and plans.

“Oh man. King-five-offsuit in the small blind, but the big blind only has 6 BB. If it folds to me, am I going to shove? I think I may have to.”

Boom. We, as the audience, get to what is in our streamer’s head, but it’s doing her good too. She hears that idea in her ears, and now her brain is rolling it around, almost as if somebody else in the room said it.

It was watching the streamers that got me thinking about talking to my monitor. And I was intrigued with the results—it really did force me to clarify my thinking about buttons I was clicking.

Clicky part of brain: “Let’s bet.” Voice: “I’m going to bet…” Ears: “He says he’s going to bet.” Rational part of brain: “Do you plan for a worse hand to call, or a better hand to fold?” Clicky part of brain: “Um…” Voice: [silence] Rational part of brain: “Maybe check?” Clicky part of brain: “Okay.”

If it will be more fun, imagine you are a poker streamer on Twitch. Visualize yourself having an audience of a hundred (or a thousand or ten thousand) viewers hanging on your every word. Now, tell them what you’re doing and why. Shut down the trolls in the chat with your coherent and insightful poker thoughts. And every time you’re unable to coherently explain to your imaginary fans why you’re doing something, stop and rethink your plan.

In short, talk to your monitor when you play online poker and see if your ears believe what your mouth is saying.


Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.