I’ll be the first to jump up and admit that I am a far, far better poker player today than I was a few years ago, but my biggest leak has simply got to be my temper (second biggest leak is calling when I know I’m beaten, and a distant third is not playing back against a pre-flop raiser with a marginal holding when I know I am ahead).
I’ve been working on it, to be sure, and I’ve certainly improved this aspect of my game. For instance, I’ve weaned myself off of (almost all) smartass comments when someone pulls a suckout, but just this past week I had two situations where I allowed myself to get tense at the poker table.
The second one was the one that’s had me contemplating the most, so I’ll relay it here: I am playing short-handed with two gentlemen…Well, it was one gentleman and one pompous jackass who just happened to be a terrible player. This came to the foreground when the jackass and I were involved in a hand. The short version is that he raised me on the flop with a draw, which he hit on the turn. Having top pair, I called him down, and when the river put The Wheel on the board, I called him, said "I play the board," and mucked my hand.
Now, this is one of Robert’s Rules of Poker, and it’s something that I’ve seen done in some card rooms. So when the dealer started pushing the pot over to the jackass without him having shown his cards, I protested, pointing out that I was playing the board. At the same time, the jackass told me not to worry about it (with a very, very smarmy attitude), and that he had a flush (beating the straight on the board), which he showed.
In the meanwhile, the dealer told me you had to show your cards to play the board, to which I said, "Oh, my mistake, I thought I could play the board without showing, now I know." Now at this point, it’s no big deal. While Robert’s Rules of Poker are as much of a standard as there can be in the world of poker, many card rooms have their quirks. The house rule for this particular card room, which I later confirmed with a floorman, says you have to show your cards to play the board, and that’s all there is to it. I should have asked before mucking rather than assuming anything, and I was quite happy to accept my mistake.
What I wasn’t so happy to accept, however, was the jackass’s behavior. Even as I was saying that I thought I could muck my cards, he was repeating what the dealer said, that I couldn’t. I told him, with a smile on my face (or so I think), that I knew that now, but that I had played at places where what I had done was allowed.
His reply? "I don’t think so."
Really, sparky? You don’t think so? That kind of makes you a pompous jackass. I didn’t say those things, I just said that I was sorry for his ignorance, and suggested he maybe start his arguments with the premise that there may be things in the world he doesn’t know.
Did I need to say that? No. Not only was it wordy and not-very-clever, it was just unnecessary. Never try and rattle the fish (note that this cat was way to pompous to be rattled, but that’s irrelevant). Only two things can come of berating a bad player or making someone feel bad: They get better or they stop playing, and neither outcome is desirable, especially if they are truly a fish.
And man, was this guy a fish? He had bubbles escaping his mouth when he spoke. As such, if I said anything to him at all, I should have been trying to keep him happy as he leaked all his chips out in a dizzying array of bad plays.
In any event, that would have been the end of it, but we both ended up sitting next to each other at the main game not too long after this incident. At that table, I did my best to ignore him, and he pretty much ignored me, too.
That is until the jackass turned to me about an hour into this new table and said, "Do you only refer white guys?" He was talking about the double tap that poker players use to say everything from "Nice hand," to "tough beat, fella" to each other. I had been double tapping another fish across the way and the loose Internet player to my immediate right all night.
I was doing this for the fish in an effort to do what I mentioned above, commiserating on every "bad beat" he took (he actually had few bad beats) and to congratulate him on his wins, all in an effort to do my part to help keep him happy and interested in the game. The Internet player to my right was getting the double tap because he and I had been chatting for the last two days, and I was just being friendly.
Since they were both white, however, the jackass — did I mention he was Indian? — leaped to the conclusion that I was a racist, and was only double tapping them due to my White Agenda (or whatever he thought). Never mind the white folks at the other end of the table I was largely ignoring and the Chinese fellow I had been double tapping at the first, short handed table.
Now, I often resort to the truth when surprised, and in this case I replied to him that I only referred (his term) people that weren’t rude to me. He then repeats that a few times ("Oh, people who are rude to you, I see, people who are rude to you…"), and then turned to me and said, "I don’t think so."
See what I mean? A pompous jackass.
I calmly told him he had said that to me twice now, and that in both cases he was wrong. "I don’t think so," he said.
So in the meanwhile, I’ve brought a bad vibe to the table, and that’s just a bullshit thing to do. I got up when the blinds came to me, and took my bad attitude away, even though there was still money to take from this dude.
Getting angry, tense, or frustrated are all leaks. They distract me from the game — even if just a little — and any kind of negative emotion can be a damper on a table. That’s just not good for the game.
Again, I’ve come a LONG way in controlling my temper in the game, but I still have further to travel, and I think it’s the thing I am working on the hardest. If you play poker and have the same issue, you should work on it, too. It will be better for the game.