Headphones have become ubiquitous in our culture. Take a subway, and half the riders are plugged in. Walk down a city street, and cords are flapping in the breeze. Even attend a high school music performance, and you’ll see younger sibs with headphones firmly implanted in ears. (Although that final choice may reveal precocious wisdom). Headphone use at the poker table has become part of an archetype of a specific kind of player. We’ll label this breed “poker headphones”. Most, but not all poker headphones players are under 30 and wear them throughout their sessions along with sunglasses and a hoodie or ballcap.
Can these players not be alone with their thoughts? Must they desperately block out the comments of other players in order to think? Do poker headphones help or hurt focus? Debates have raged about the etiquette of headphones at the poker table and whether their use is beneficial. Norman Chad, the great poker commentator and wit, comes down firmly against poker headphones, throwing them into the same category as hoodies and sunglasses. However, many top pros like Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey, frequently wear headphones at the poker table.
In today’s Throwdown, we take on the poker headphones phenomenon. We have played tournaments both with and without headphones. Which is better?
Paul: I generally like poker players, but sometimes hate what comes out of people’s mouths. Short friendly interchanges allow me to think the best of everyone. Too much exposure to others’ insights makes me want to take up crocheting. Enjoying my poker session is as important to me as winning. Listening to Elvis Costello assures that I will enjoy my day, however the game plays out. Listening to a poker genius telling everyone else how they are misplaying hands assures I won’t.
Heather: Ah, the “I hate humanity” argument. Fair enough. However, I find that I get a lot of information from listening to others at the table. Not only through direct communications, but also from side banter with the dealer and with each other. I lose those insights about other players’ habits and their games if I am tuning out to the music of Hamilton.