Just over a month ago I wrote up a blog post detailing the 9 Topics You Should Never Discuss at the Poker Table. I was motivated to put that post together based primarily on personal experiences I’ve had while playing live poker. All too many times, people simply brought up topics of conversation that were simply inappropriate to be discussed around a poker table. By the same token, however, the vast majority of the time I play poker in live casinos, the conversation usually flows smoothly, is lighthearted, and helps make an inherently social game that much more enjoyable to play. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 9 topics that players should always feel free to discuss at the poker table.
Though many of the topics I’ve listed may seem rather obvious to anyone who has ever sat down to play live poker in a casino, especially for lower stakes, there are plenty of players who primarily play poker online. For players like those, even if they play the closest thing to “real poker”, like Webcam poker at sites like 888 poker, I believe that social skills might not be as well honed, thus it pays to have a “laundry list” of topics to turn to in order to help get or keep the conversation going. I compiled all of these topic recommendations with public poker rooms in mind, but naturally they’re just as applicable when playing in live poker home games.
So, without any further ado:
1. Talk about Sports
There’s a reason a sizeable percentage of casinos locate their poker rooms right next to the sports book. The overwhelming majority of live poker players tend to be men, and men tend to love sports (Ed. Note: of course many women play live poker and love sports too, but for the sake of making the “stereotypical” point…). Whatever the time of year, there are always professional sports taking place for you and your poker tablemates to talk about. Plus, if you feel like adding a little extra action into the poker mix, you can all even do a little friendly prop betting while playing poker.
2. Discuss the News
Especially good to bring up when there’s a lull in the poker table conversation, there’s usually no harm in discussing the news. On the one hand, “no news is good news” and oftentimes most news tends to be bad news. On the other hand though, you can always start a discussion about something topical and enjoyable. Moreover, if you’ve got your own personal good news, why not share it with the crowd? When discussing news at the poker table though, just be careful not to venture into politics, as that’s a topic from the “no-no list” J.
3. Dish about the Latest TV Shows
I’m pretty active on Twitter, so I usually know what’s trending. Pretty much on a weekly basis “everyone” is talking about shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother… the list quite literally goes on and on. Surely if people are talking about TV shows in the virtual world, they’d be quite happy to talk about them while playing live poker. To an extent, TV shows are cultural cornerstones, so if you happen to touch upon the right one at the right time with the right people, you and your live poker tablemates could have quite the lively discussion for a lengthy amount of time.
4. Critique the Latest Movies
Live poker table talk doesn’t have to just be limited to the small screen. Whether it’s Academy Awards season, time for summer blockbusters, or if you just so happened to stream one on Netflix the night before, there’s almost always a good recent movie that poker players can talk about.
And if none of the latest movies excite any of you enough, there’s always room to open up a discussion about your favorite poker or gambling movies. For the record, mine are the Cincinnati Kid and Maverick.
5. Talk about Poker News
Can’t think of anything interesting in the news to talk about at the poker table? How about what’s specifically newsworthy as of late in poker? There’s almost always something fresh and exciting going on in the poker world. From recent big tournament results to ESPN’s Nuts rankings of the top current poker players to the latest new poker products on the market, anyone who follows poker even casually shouldn’t have a problem coming up with something interesting and entertaining to discuss that the others will quickly get engaged in.
6. Recommend Local Entertainment Options
This is especially great to do in Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of the World. The world’s top acts are always passing through, so recommend a show you’ve just recently seen or mention to others sitting near you that great musician you just saw perform at a nearby hotel.
If you’re not in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or another big casino/poker hub and you instead find yourself in a locals poker room, especially if you’re a visitor, it’s worth asking around as to what other entertainment options are available in the area. You might discover something new and exciting that otherwise would’ve passed you by had you not brought up the topic!
7. Chat about Food or Local Restaurants
Whether you’re the type of foodie who watches Iron Chef (live to eat) or just have your 3 square meals a day (eat to live), talking about food while playing live poker is about as neutral and unobtrusive as you can get. Everyone eats, so everyone’s got their opinions about different types of dishes.
If there’s a local restaurant you want to rave about or just can’t stand, voice your opinion and you’re almost sure to get a detractor or someone to back you up. You can even talk about food-related topics if the table’s been quiet for too long, like room service, tableside food service, or – if all else fails to get some talkers – order a round of drinks for everyone, like WSOP Main Event Champ Joe Hachem likes to do (see picture at the end of this post).
8. Tell a Great Poker Story
While nobody likes to hear a bad beat story, if you’ve got a great poker story to tell, you’re all but guaranteed to have everyone at the table – including oftentimes the dealer! – engaged in what you have to say.
Were you once at a table that hit a bad beat jackpot? Did you ever happen to play poker against a famous player like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu while playing in a big event? Everyone likes hearing stuff like that… plus your story might end up triggering some other great poker stories that other players at your table might otherwise have kept to themselves.
9. General Background Info about Each Other
The ultimate ice breaker is question asking. Whether you’ve just arrived at the poker table or a new player has sat down in an empty seat beside you after you’ve already been playing for hours, introducing yourself and chit chatting with your neighbors about your life isn’t just a surefire topic of discussion, it’s also a great way to potentially make a new friend. Striking up even the most mundane of conversations (what’s your name? where are you from? what do you do?) could end up revealing some interesting common bonds between yourself and the other players at the poker table. It’s always worth saying more than just “hello”.
Just to highlight the obvious, a common thread among all the topics listed above is that they’re practically guaranteed to get people to talk to one another at the poker table. Despite live poker primarily being a game about making money, the social aspect is also of critical importance to recreational players.
Whether you’re a recreational player or a professional, however, you should also keep in mind that there’s plenty of potentially useful information you can pick up about your opponents from speaking with them. Of course you should be genuine in conversing with your tablemates while playing poker with them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take advantage of something you pick up from the information they reveal about themselves while talking to you at the table. If you do pick up on something about an opponent that you perceive to be valuable, be sure to take poker notes on them when you’ve got a spare moment.
Can you think of any other topics that players would enjoy discussing around the poker table? Share them with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.