Poker is a great game because it is intellectually challenging on many levels – you need timing, luck, skill, and courage. These are the same skills needed for dating. Poker imitates life, so I think we can learn a lot about what to do, and what NOT to do, from poker.
One typical weakness I see in beginner poker players is so-called “ABC poker” . These players have read a few books about poker, and they know the theory, but they apply it too rigidly and predictably. It’s paint-by-numbers: I have these cards, I’ll do this. Needless to say, they don’t do well at the table. I think the same can be true of daters, particularly those who don’t have a natural smoothness and social grace. Are you an ABC dater?
Strong Start, Weak Finish
Most ABC poker players play pretty well pre-flop. They have their cards in their hands, they know what to do with them. They bet with authority and confidence. But then the flop comes, they get middle-pair, with a straight draw on the board…everyone checks around…things get complicated quickly. They remember what the book says…but how does it apply here? It gets tough, and they start to unravel.
The same is true in dating. The guys who’ve read a few dating how-tos, online or on-paper, they can start out well. They maintain eye-contact, good body language, strike-up the first conversation, get the phone number. The first dinner date – nice place, basic get-to-know-you-conversation…but then there are minor complications. She doesn’t know what she wants to order. The service is a bit slow. She looks bored. She glances at her watch. She’s actually a little distracted because her friends are meeting her at 10 to go dancing – she diplomatically asks, do you want to come? Little setbacks, little distractions, and they forget to maintain the body language, the eye-contact, the playful banter. The Plan A in their heads’ doesn’t quite work out. Strong start, weak finish.
Folds to Pressure
It happens all the time. The flop comes, you get a piece of it, and the ABC player fires a bet. You call. The turn is garbage, ABC checks. You bet, ABC folds.
The ABC dater knows he should be fun, witty, playful. All true – wit is a form of verbal confidence, aggression. Great – but what happens when a joke is misdelivered, or a clever line falls flat? The ABC dater will back-pedal, look down at his plate, mutter something, and change the subject. Or what if she isn’t very talkative? The nervous ABC dater will fill the silence with chatter.
There are other kinds of pressure – what if someone catcalls at your date as you’re walking down the street? (True story, BTW). What if someone cuts in line at the movies? The ABC dater will fold to pressure.
Don’t be an ABC dater.
Building confidence takes time. Developing body language takes time. Luckily, practicing doesn’t require dating. Be trustworthy to your friends and co-workers. Do what you say you’ll do. Apologize when you screw up. Make jokes and banter with friends. Take risks. Stand up for yourself. Then, when the critical time comes in the date, when the waiter is rude, you’ll know what to do, and not because you read it somewhere.