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Reading Your Opponents Wardrobe

Poker Tells: Reading Your Opponent's Wardrobe
by Chad Holloway of

The moment you sit down at any poker table, you should immediately begin sizing up your opponents, which includes assessing their chip stack, personality, and betting patterns. Aside from these common characteristics to look for, there is one other telling trait most players overlook, and that is an opponent's wardrobe and appearance. In More Hold'em Wisdom for All Players, Daniel Negreanu explains the importance of clothing and appearance:

"Clothing choice and personal appearance can often tell you something about a player's approach to poker. An opponent who is clean-shaven, has neat hair, and wears traditional clothing reveals plenty about his personality. This player leans toward the conservative, and chances are good that his poker game will mimic his outward appearance. Conversely, if your opponent wears a stained shirt, has uncombed hair and a five-o'clock shadow, and is generally not 'put together,' his poker-playing style is likely to be wild, loose and unpredictable."

Based on Negreanu's conclusion, you should be able to sit down at a table and within seconds classify many of your opponents based upon their appearance. If these classifications prove true, you will be playing with an early advantage since you were immediately able to adjust to your opponent's style before actually having to observe it. Of course these general classifications will not always prove true. Assigning a player a style based upon his appearance and wardrobe is stereotyping and stereotypes are not applicable to everyone. As Negreanu puts it, "like anything else, there are expectations to the rules, so any form of player stereotyping should be done cautiously."

Aside from a player's appearance and clothing, you will also want to take a look at what your opponents have with them. For example, if you see that your opponent is sitting with an Ipod, a bagged lunch, and a couple of Red Bulls, you can safely assume that he is there for the long run and likely to play patiently; on the other hand, if someone had a significant other hovering over their shoulder, you opponent is likely in a rush and will be playing much looser than everyone else.

Other items that can give away information include card protectors, poker magazines and books, and poker clothing (i.e. Full Tilt gear), which often signal a serious player who devotes a lot of time and attention to the game.

Although stereotyping in poker has it benefits, make sure you understand the downfalls as well. Like all stereotyping, there is an inherent danger in loosely applying it. In poker, stereotyping the wrong player can cost you a lot of chips; as such, whenever you apply a poker stereotype, be sure to look for information throughout the game that evidences your assessment or disproves it.

Of course you are going to come across players who defy the stereotype you've assigned them, but don't let this discourage you. Instead, use these opportunities to learn, since the more you play, the more similarities you will pick up between players and their wardrobes, allowing you to make your own stereotypes. Employing tactics like reading into appearance and wardrobe is a starting point in developing an impression on your opponent. This impression should be revisited, revised, and constantly updated as you gain more information throughout the day.


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