Blog | Music Makes Me Lose Control

Beethoven once said that ‘Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.’ If music brings any degree of wisdom and philosophy to me while I’m at the tables, then I am certainly indebted to it.

Many believe that Mike McDonald developed is trademark stare from Beethoven
Many believe that Mike McDonald developed his trademark stare from Beethoven

Picture the scene. It’s Christmas Eve Eve (yes, that’s apparently a thing now). You’re playing a £25 MTT at your local casino. You’re doing rather well. You are in the middle of running a triple barrel bluff. The perfect card has peeled off on the river and you’re getting ready to empty the clip, which will really put your opponent to the test. At that precise moment ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ starts playing in your headphones. As far as I remember, I did end up taking down that pot, albeit with no thanks to Mariah Carey.

However, to examine why some people listen to music when they play poker we have to first think about what it brings to poker. I have a friend who, whilst driving to and from the casino to play, listens to Classic FM, presumably to calm down and focus before and after playing. I on the other hand distinctly remember driving down the dual carriageway with my equivalent of a ‘Get Psyched Mix‘ blaring out.

In both of the examples above music is used away from the tables, so what about in the midst of the action. Why do we listen to music there? Let me run through a few examples.

The first is to combat distractions. If the elderly lady at the Reading G Casino has told me once she has a grandson my age, she’s told me a million times – “He’s either studying psychology or sociology…something complicated.” And if Alicia Keys comes over the speakers once more I’m going to have to call the floor. I’m sorry Alicia but ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ I might be nearer the chip average. Oh! And I’m sorry middle-aged balding man in seat two, but I don’t care that Atletico beating Real Madrid has really messed up your acca. I really don’t.

"You've got to know when to fold'em, know when to hold'em..."
“You’ve got to know when to fold’em, know when to hold’em…”

The second reason is entertainment. We all know that live poker is a world away from the fast-paced multi-tabling action of online. Music is just one way to soften the blow of the 20-something year old in the hoodie tank-folding for an eternity. It’s either that or Candy Crush.

But the truth is, for every song I listen to over my headphones, I’m taking them off or taking one out. Be it to hear how much the bet is, to answer a question or to simply participate in the table conversation. Poker is inherently a social game, designed to provoke debate and conversation between those around the table, and I will gladly suffer hearing about dear old Barbara’s grandson over and over again if we can all have a laugh and a joke together.


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