Saturday, July 21, 2012

Don't Scare the Fish!

There is a lot of money to be made off of stupidity
-“Alabama Man” 

After playing poker for so many years, there really isn’t too much that bothers me at the tables. One glaring exception is when seasoned, skilled players are condescending or impatient to others who are just learning the game.

A lot of people gravitate to poker as a form of entertainment; winning money isn’t their primary goal. They just want to have a good time and don’t care if it costs them a few hundred dollars. This is an attitude that is often hard to find in poker and it should be greeted with a smile and nurtured with kindness.

Playing cards in Biloxi last week, I was moved to the left of a jovial man from Alabama. He was swilling Coronas like an unemployed Charlie Sheen and punctuating his dialogue with profanity and bleary-eyed laughs. Talking with him, it was apparent that a few hundred dollars didn’t mean too much to him. The way he played poker confirmed this suspicion. His goal was simply to have a good time and there was no denying that he succeeded.

Although I had just sat down, I noticed immediately that no one else at the table was enjoying the “Alabama Man” show. There were a lot of shared grimaces and mutterings about “idiocy.”

The dealers and other players complained about nearly everything this poor fella did. They objected to his language, to his failure to follow the action, and to his general poker strategy. Essentially, they objected to him as a person.

Sensing the animosity at the table, “Alabama Man” began to consider abandoning cards and returning to the casino’s dice game.

One especially egregious example of this behavior occurred from a younger kid at the table who had amassed a large stack of chips. When the kid made a river bet, “Alabama Man” drunkenly shoved out a sloppy pile of chips with each hand in an attempt to raise the bet. The kid complained that “Alabama Man’s” hands crossed the table’s betting line a split second apart and the raise shouldn’t count. Then, in the very next breath, the kid said that he had a good hand and wanted the raise to stand. His fundamental dislike of “Alabama Man” was at war with his desire to make money. It was a weird example of the competing instincts within a lot of poker players.

Moments like these at the poker table bother me. Oftentimes players who are technically proficient fail to understand this basic premise of the game: DON’T SCARE THE FISH! Laugh at their jokes, listen to their stories, offer condolences for their losses, and complement the good plays when they make them. Be friendly because they are your true poker friends. When they are kind enough to throw a party, sit back, enjoy yourself, and have a big ol’ piece of fishcake.

From our discussion together, it was clear “Alabama Man” understood this basic carnivorous principle. Although he may have been a red-shirted rube at the poker table, he was all shark in business. He looked me dead in the eye and opined, in a self-assured and slurred tone, “There is a lot of money to be made off of stupidity.” I nodded my head in quiet agreement.

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