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Sitting at a poker table for hours prompts some players to engage in conversation, and politics is a topic on many people’s minds these days. For players in countries like the United States, Great Britain, and France, politics are on the minds of many citizens. A simple prompt can encourage a player to talk about it with others at his or her table, such as seeing something on a television screen in the poker room or casino, seeing a social media post on one’s mobile device, or reading an email or news story via that same device.

It can be tempting to say something aloud about that topic, whether it be a news update or action by a politician. The best advice is to avoid it. Just don’t do it!

The result of starting a political conversation can be negative, not only for the person(s) in the initial discussion but for everyone at their table and even those in listening range. Many political topics are quite divisive and stir up passionate feelings. When people disagree on issues that some take very personally, the result can be a casual conversation that turns angry and possibly volatile over time, though it can happen in a matter of minutes.

A contentious discussion or angry disagreement not only results in negativity, but the players are likely to play a less optimal game. When others at the table are frustrated, everyone’s game is impacted. And if the participants get too heated, there can be penalties and even ejections from the poker room. But there are ways to keep things from going in that direction.

Laugh It Off

When someone tries to initiate a discussion about something political, even by simply making a comment about an election or a politician, try to make a joke and laugh it off. The joke should probably be non-partisan, perhaps even about another topic altogether, and it should clearly indicate a desire to stay away from political topics. Jokes or some type of humorous comment can change the subject and lighten the mood for everyone.

Change the Subject

There are many things to talk about at the tables, but the easiest is the players and their history with the game. “How long have you been playing?” “Have you ever played at xxx Casino?” Players can easily be distracted by an invitation to talk about their poker experiences, well-known pro players or famous hands, the state of online poker, or recent big tournaments.

Use Headphones

Always have headphones handy! Whether a political discussion breaks out or another player becomes otherwise annoying, putting on those headphones with some calming or energizing music can be a simple solution. If someone tries to engage in a political discussion and won’t take no for an answer, the headphones are a still-polite way to indicate no interest in that topic.

Change Tables

This is only possible in cash games, but it is easy to leave a table that is discussing politics, especially amidst a disagreement. If wanting to do it without causing any negative feelings, simply indicate a need to change one’s luck or get out of a particular seat that has been unlucky in the past. Mention that there is a fish at another table that might be easy money, or even cash out and go for a walk or a meal before returning to be seated at a different table later that day or evening.

Vent on the Mobile Device

If there are things that you are dying to say in response to someone’s comments, whether political or not, refrain from saying them out loud. Text someone, write an email, or use social media to say what is on your mind. It avoids conflict at the table but allows you to get your thoughts out, so that your primary focus can return to the game at hand.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.