Without the aid of an iPod and a player database, it’s sometimes hard to judge the quality of your opponent as you take a seat, particularly if you’re new to the Tour. What with the size of EPT fields these days it’s difficult to get a profile of every player you sit alongside, meaning you sometimes have to resort to shortcuts. So you jettison logic and rational analysis in favour of guess work, hunches and that illusive “feel”. This particularly works if you play poker in the same way.
In order to help the fledgling poker player to make instinctive presumptions about the type of opponent they’re up against, we’ve produced a handy cut-out-and-keep cheat sheet said players form an immediate gut-feeling about adversaries, based solely on appearance:
The T-shirt and jeans
The staple outfit of most distinguished poker players, with an occasional personal touch such as a woolly hat or large scarf, these players are highly regarded and have banked a wealth of information after playing several million hands online. Not only that but also incessant talk about the game at a level so high that it can send lesser men back to the snakes and ladders board.
These are the daunting opponents who regularly cash, and if they don’t their horse will.
Fear factor: High
This man (let’s be clear, they’re always men) has no need for material possessions and is prepared to wear the first thing he found on the bedroom floor that morning. This is a dangerous sign for this man lives for poker and only poker. He will know nothing else, including how to chew with his mouth closed. Capable of great, and terrible play, when not playing he likes to drink straight out of a bottle of Hennessey. Fear factor: High and low, depending on how close the bottle is.
Conspicuous designer clothing
Tricky to classify on sight alone, but this is often a sign of recent success. It’s not unusual to see a player play in an EPT in tatty work trousers and a three-pack shirt from British Home Stores, cash, then turn up at the next event in Gucci trainers, an Armani shirt carrying a man bag.
Their self believe has been overhauled too. They feel unbeatable and every so often are. Sometimes. Maybe.Fear factor: Medium
Older man in comfortable clothing
He sounds like an easy opponent but in reality this guy is a solid player who has been on the poker circuit since before you were born, playing in countries that are now no go areas for westerners.
Like the “tracksuit”, although with a degree of dignity, he has no time for, or understanding off, the material world and how it works, and lives solely for poker. In fact, he hasn’t been home since 1997. Fear factor: High
A team shirt
Another danger sign, particularly if the shirt is from a country in which they don’t live. Often this is a football shirt form a place that has staged a major tournament in which they’ve played, such as Barcelona or Madrid. This rule only applies in Europe. Fear factor: High
Cock-eyed baseball cap
These are popular, talented, local players looking to break into the European poker scene with a big result. Meanwhile they’re killing at home and online.
Travelling with friends, they often go close to a big score, but love being part of the tour and the poker world in general. Friendly at all times, especially when they send you to the rail. Fear factor: High
Distinguished looking man in a sponsors patch
Usually an actor, or a former rock musician, they’re playing as a guest of the company whose patch is stuck to their upper arm. They look unreadable because they’ve often no idea what’s going on. Beware, however, that these players can actually be quite good having spent a career on stage frustrated by lack of time to play cards. Fear factor: Low-medium
A pressed shirt with a collar
This is the independently wealthy player, playing off their own money, which they earn from a high paid job at an investment bank which has granted them a first week off since they left college. There are further variations to this, for instance the “collar with a tie”, who is normally the man who owns the investment bank. Beware “the bow tie” also, for this is the son of the man who owns the investment bank, and he doesn’t care about anything. Each has fifth place locked up.Fear factor: Medium-Low
The player who dresses like nobody else
Impossible to read, but even if there was time to try he’d already have humiliated you. You can only hope it’s not on television.
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier
These players have a unique personal style that, while being unusual enough to cause your dog to bark at them outside in the real world, causes them to shine in the poker room. New players should play dead. Fear factor: High
Skiing goggles, etc.
Not just skiing goggles, but anything you haven’t seen before, like someone playing while commentating in the third person or wearing a crash helmet. These types can usually play a bit but at the same time like the idea of having their picture taken. Fear factor: low, medium and high.
Hopefully this will serve some players in their bid to reach the first break. The field is full of them, with their current progress available on our regularly updated live coverage page.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter