As Daniel Negranu says: "You can't be all loosey goosey and play poker effectively."
Paying attention to EVERYTHING at the table is a practiced art form.
My late coach and mentor, Terry Ring, stressed situational awareness in every session. One thing he always said was: "I would rather you be silent then a 'chatty cathy' at the table. By running your mouth, the greatest likelihood that you wil miss something important."
Let's look at several important parts of my life. The first is my battle with diabetes. Do you think that being aware of what foods can do to my sugar levels isn't important? Yeah, I thought so.
Second, I am a licensed pilot. There is a concept in flying called 'see and avoid'. It's extremely important to maintain visual separation from other aircraft in your vicinity. Radar, ADS-B and other aids help with this but nothing bests a good old fashioned MK-1 eyeball. See it. Identify it. Avoid it.
Third, is my step daughter, Kristy. Seeing the little things that make her smile. Kristy is severely autistic. Chronologically, she is 35 but mentally 8 to 10 years pld. Paying attention to the details with her is of paramount importance.
Fourth, my wife, Sue, has health issues of her own. Paying attention to the stressors in her life help keep those problems manageable.
Fifth and finally, in my career as an over-the-road trucker for 22 years, situational awareness is something we practiced every day. Paying attention to the details keep you, me and my family safe and the freight moving.
So, how do I practice situational awareness at the table? A good practice is to take notes at the table. Take note of things like: are they right or left handed; nervous; talkative; are their hands, wrists or forearms twitching?; are their eyes wandering or unfocused?; they way they stack their chips; are they neat and orderly?
Remember, this very basic and simple rule of thumb. The good Lord gave you 2 eyes and 2 ears but 1 mouth. Why? So you can take in 4 times as much as you spit out.
Sometimes, the most feared player at the table isn't the most talented. It's the one. Who's is the most observant and quietest. They take in information, process, then act on it.
That, folks, is situational awareness in a nutshell.