Do you ever get that itch? The itch to gamble, to head to the closest casino, to find a high stakes game of Texas Holdem, to sit at a Blackjack table for hours on end. I love that itch. And I love to scratch it.

I also love to watch people gamble. No two poker faces seem alike. When I gamble I like to think I put on a poker face that is impenetrable.  But I know I have certain mannerisms. For one, the only time I smoke is when I play poker or Blackjack. And then I chain smoke. But I chain smoke whether I am winning or losing, whether I have a good hand or bad.

I once played in a weekly poker game. The game was always 5 card draw. There was a man who played with us every week who always wore a hat. When he was dealt a good hand, subconsciously, he would begin touching and playing with his hat. Needless to say, he never won.

The greatest poker player I ever saw was a man who made more movements and gestures at a poker table than anybody I had ever met. He was impeccable in the way he dressed. Always an expensive suit and tie, shoes shined and nails manicured. He was fastidious in this manner. And he was always brushing his pant leg or rubbings his hands or stacking his chips in neat little piles.

I use to study him for hours on end. I’d tried to see if I could spot his tell. Picking lint off his vest– did this mean he was bluffing? Stacking his chips in a short pile – did this mean he had a good hand?

Years later I ran into him in a bar in Chicago and we had a drink. I asked him if he were aware of all those movements he made or if they were subconscious. He told me that every single thing he did at a poker table was intentional. He said that everybody is always checking out everybody else’s poker face. They are trying to spot the the tell.

So his system was to give them lots to think about. His reasoning was if they were thinking about him picking a piece of link off his jacket and what it meant they sure weren’t thinking about their cards.

His system was distraction. And it worked for him. Never give up a system that works for you.

Copyright Pamela Pompeii. All rights reserved.
Pamela Pompeii is a leader in a new breed of stylized journalism.


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