Are you an innie or an outie?
We have all heard talk about different personality traits, extrovert/introvert, weak/strong, happy/sad. In fact, personality is a lot more complex than that and unsurprisingly, we find correlations between different personality traits and different styles of poker.
The personality traits that make people even and well-rounded in everyday life are not necessarily going to produce a good poker player. And, as with many other areas of life, there are aspects of personality that you can change and other aspects that you cannot. If you cast your eyes over some of the psychological research that has been developed over the years on different personality traits, you can study which are likely to benefit the poker player and which are going to hinder him/her. We’ve listed some of the stand-out features below.
Introversion or Extroversion?
The most commonly known personality trait has two different facets, the extroversion type and the introversion type; everybody leans towards one type more than the other. In general, a person will be more boisterous, open and expressive, or a person will be shy, reserved and quiet.
As you are probably already aware, most people find themselves in the middle of each extreme. There are surely some moments when you are more reserved than other moments, and even the shyest of people will have moments of great expressiveness.
You might think that your friend, the one that never stops talking, is without a doubt an out and out extrovert, but even they will have moments of introversion. Generally, though, a person will be either more extrovert or more introvert.
At a modern-day poker table, both types of personality carry advantages and disadvantages distinct to the particular game being played.
Firstly, keeping a ‘poker face‘ that is impenetrable to your opponents is a lot easier for an introverted personality. Normally reserved and calm, the introvert has a lot more resources to draw on in order to conceal their underlying emotional state.
The extrovert talks a lot and is very demonstrative, they will betray a lot more ‘tells’ than the introvert. If your personality tendency is to be extroverted it is possible that you speak more loudly and faster when you have a good hand. And your voice may be more susceptible to nervous inflexions when you are attempting to bluff.
On the other hand, introverts can also feel excited, and nothing excites a person more than flopping a monster after several hours of monotonous folding of average hands. Hiding this excitement behind a mask of serenity can be extremely complicated, even for an introvert. They want to bounce around in excitement but they must keep a placid face. Not easy.
However with regards to an extrovert, because he always has an air of excitement, it is often when they take a moment or two to reflect and become silent, that they are in receipt of a really good hand, and their opponents can easily become aware of the sudden change in character.
The key then, in both cases, is to ‘mix your game’, or, in this case, your image at the table. The possibility also exists of doing the exact opposite and forcing yourself to always react as an introvert or extrovert.
Two Ideal-Types: Daniel Negreanu and Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson, for example, is the introvert-type player, he takes time over each decision, he does not let slip any information or ‘tells’ from behind his hat or his sunglasses. You will never be able to predict what Chris is thinking.
Daniel Negreanu, by contrast, is the perfect example of an extrovert, he loves speaking, he talks when he is playing a hand, he talks when he is not in a hand and he loves talking between two bets. He can talk sports, films, and sometimes even poker- in any case, he never stops talking. Try just once to work out any of Daniels ‘tells’, good luck!!!
In order to manage well the character that you portray at the table, you first have to know yourself. Be aware of your comportment in stressful situations and work hard on controlling your reactions, whether this control involves permanently amplifying a character trait or balancing it out with its opposite. With practice this will hopefully bring you into the realms of Ferguson or Negreanu…. which will you be?
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Gordon Dyke has served as our poker expert since 2017. Gordon has been playing poker professionally and recreationally for nearly two decades.