I have written here, more than once, about how Mike Caro has convinced me many times over that I really should try to be more socially engaging with other players at the poker table. But I have also told you about how this is just about the most difficult thing one could ask of me.
My friends seem able to do this. I have watched Cardgrrl slip into the social butterfly role with apparent ease. (She has written about it several times, e.g., here and here.) F-Train, too, has recently been writing about his conscious attempts to be livelier and more engaging to his customers (see here and here.) Even C.K., for whom I think small talk with strangers comes more easily than it does for F-Train or me, has experimented with deliberately altering her table image away from that of the stone-cold killer you'd judge her to be if you paid attention only to her play (see here).
During my Sunday morning session at the Venetian this week I overheard the guy next to me tell somebody else that he was from Washington, D.C. This naturally made me wonder if perhaps he plays in some of the same games as Cardgrrl, so I started asking him about poker in that city. It led to talking about his job (computer geek for the FBI), politics (a fellow libertarian), etc.
Yesterday at Binion's I noticed that another player at the table had a fabulous voice--rich, mellifluous, resonant, perfect diction with just a touch of Southern twang. In one hand, I had A-Q and raised, with him being the only caller. When I bet at the ace-high flop, he flashed his jacks before folding, then started to tell me about how he hated jacks. Now, long-time readers with elephant-like memories may recall that two years ago I ranted about how stupid it is to hate big pocket pairs--even jacks--because they are profitable. I concluded that little screed with the request that if you hate some particular hand, "just shut up about it." So you can see that I'm not inclined to listen to such complaints gladly.
But instead of cutting this guy off at the knees with either a retort about how stupid his remark was, or just responding with silence while I thought the same thing, I seized the moment to compliment him on his voice, noting that it's one that belonged on the radio. He smiled and said, "Thank you. I've made my living with it for the last 30 years." He went on to tell me about his voiceover work, etc.
So now that's twice within the space of a week that I have gone out of my way to engage a fellow player in trivial chit-chat between hands. And y'know what? It only hurt a little itty bitty bit.