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There is one common pet that can teach us a lot about people and the game of poker. Some of might think this would be a dog or cat, while others may take the Phil Hellmuth route and compare poker players to a lion or a eagle.

Oddly enough, we can learn a lot about the game of poker by observing the behavior of gerbils. That’s right, I said gerbils. Don’t believe me? Below are a few behaviors exhibited in gerbils that you can use to identify the regulars in any live poker room.

Greeting and Interaction

Gerbils exhibit certain behaviors when they are familiar with other gerbils. You will often see them rub noses or wink at each other. If you’re a gerbil owner, you’ve probably had your gerbil do this to you. Grooming of other gerbils is also a sign of familiarity and is a way that they develop social skills.

What does this have to do with spotting regulars in a poker room? When you sit at a table, watch how the players interact with the staff and each other. Who are the players that actually know the dealers, are getting hugs or handshakes from floor staff  or other players?

Depending on how comfortable a player is with a person at the table, you could see some grooming habits develop. Don’t think so? Ever see someone brush some water, dirt, snow, etc off someone’s coat or pick some scraggly hair that’s clung to their shirt? If the person being groomed doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, they probably know the groomer.

Who Are You – What Do You Want – Don’t You Raise My Blind

If a gerbil is startled or feel they are in danger, they will start peering around carefully with their tail in the air. They are ready to bolt at a moment’s notice, or if they are really upset, a fight might be about to start.

Ever been at a poker table and almost immediately know it is full of regulars? You’re the person they start eyeballing with the “who invited you to the game” look. Some will give you this look if you start playing aggressively, especially in lower stake games.

Don’t you raise my blind you whippersnapper. I fought in “insert war appropriate for their age.”

2-Legged Watcher

Gerbils will often stand on their hind legs to see if the coast is clear or to try to get the attention of someone they know. Ever seen a regular in a low stakes game desperately looking for either a game in a higher limit or someone they know to borrow some money off of?

“Hey you! Ya you! How’s it going buddy? Got $40 you can lend me so I can play $3-$6 Limit? I’m trying to run it up to play in $1-$2 NL later.”

Digging In the Corner

Gerbils have a tendency to burrow into the corner of their cage or enclosure. This behavior is something they pick up from their parents and often is done to make them more comfortable in their captive environment.

This reminds me of the regulars that tend to make themselves completely at home at the poker table. They’re the ones that will bring a travel bag with them along with a side table for their meals, drinks etc. They’re the ones with about three or four drinks in front of them, a half of dozen napkins, straws, breath mints, etc. A few may even bring their spouses or girlfriends along to sit behind them.

Granted, these aren’t always regulars, but chances are they don’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon. Therefore, they are a permanent part of your game for that day.

We Are All Gerbils

As you’ve already figured out, at one time or another we are all gerbils. All of us have exhibited behavior that could be linked to these adorable rodents. The only difference is that we don’t drink from water bottles with little spouts at the end of them. Wait – some of us carry sports bottles for our water, so scratch that.


Watch the full Burn & Turn episode here

The next time you’re in a live poker room, look around at your table and the tables around  you for these behaviors. Maybe try some of these behaviors for fun. Just don’t rub noses with your dealer. That tends to freak them out.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.