Monday, March 19, 2012

Foxwoods Tomorrow - And, Be Nice to Fish

Tomorrow I'm going to Foxwoods to take some dough off the Monday Morning denizens of the 1/2NL tables.  God help me, I really groove on the 1/2NL crowd at Foxwoods.  They're playing poker for real money - some people may not think so but my heart starts to race at the prospect of a $200 hand, goddamn right it does - and not only are they bad players, but they're bad in a predictable way: They'll check-call bets on the flop and the turn to try and catch; they have faith in second pairs; they believe that hitting an ace on the flop when holding A3 is like hitting the jackpot.  It's only a matter of time before their stack is yours.

I love those people. I can't believe they come to Foxwoods and play so, so poorly, but they do,  And that reminds me, I've been meaning to rail against some unfortunately all-too-common behavior: the table bully, the guy at the table who ridicules and berates the fishies.

You've played with him a thousand times, or ten thousand.  He has enough experience to no longer be considered a beginner, but has not yet encountered any steady success.  He thinks he is smarter than he really is, and he views the game in far more black-and-white terms than players with more experience.
He'll show a bluff and spend 45 seconds explaining why it worked on you.  He'll tell you that for the bet he put out, only an idiot would call and hope for the straight.  He'll tell you that he knew your exact two cards (usually he will make this proclamation after you've shown said cards). He'll go on and on, doing everything he can to prove the twin points that a) he is a genius, and b) you are an idiot.

Most poker players grow out of this behavior but here's a little tip for those of you who have yet to do so: if you view poker as a game the object of which is to take and keep your opponent's money (and you should), acting like the table bully in the way I've described is the single most damaging behavior you can possibly exhibit.  Period. It's the biggest hole in your game, it's costing you buy-in after buy-in, and if you don't stop, you'll go broke.

For one reason, if you're playing a guy and you spot something on him like a physical tell or a betting pattern, for the love of Buddha keep your trap shut about it! Why on earth would you tip off your opponent to weaknesses in his game?  You WANT him to act like a passive little calling station.  You WANT him chasing hands. At least I do.  If it's a friend of yours and you want to take pity on him, maybe you say something at the end of the night, maybe. But you are under zero obligation to do so.  Take his money! That's truly the name of the game.

For another, when a fish gets harangued for his play, berated every time he puts chips in the pot, and ridiculed in a very public way, he's going to take all his juicy chips, those lovely little ducats on which his grip is so tenuous, and sit down at another god damned table. A true fish is a rare and beautiful thing, and his chips are never closer to being yours as when he is made to feel comfortable.  Why do people not understand this basic rule of human behavior? Jumping Jesus! It can't be just me, can it?  Sometimes when someone tries to bluff me and it doesn't add up, like he's telling me a story I don't believe, I'll pretend to agonize over the decision and when I call and rake the chips in I'll compliment the effort, tell him it came this close to working, so hopefully he does it again.  Who does it benefit to stick it in his ear right then? "I knew you had nothing.  This is the adult's game, fishcake.  Kiddie game is down the hall." What does that do except clamp his ass down tighter than a bull's ass in fly season and make him request a seat change button? You've just cut your profit expectation for the next three hours in half.  Well done, douchebag.

Not only that, but good players know that a player who acts as the table bully generally plays poker a certain way; they tend to be mindlessly aggressive, bluff constantly, steal blinds on the button just about every orbit, and will call your shove on a draw (especially in the cash game arena). It's like a giant neon tell over your sideways-hat-wearing head. So this behavior alienates and tightens up the bad players, and telegraphs your entire approach to the game to the good players. Again: well done, douchebag.

The final reason for not behaving like the table bully is not necessarily poker-based:When it comes right down to it, it's just fucking impolite.  If you insult and berate people at the table for your perception of their play, you're just a jerk, a fundamentally unpleasant person to be around. A douchebag, as it were. Don't be that guy.  Be nice to fish.  It's good business and it's the right thing to do.

Well it's almost 4AM and I have a busy day berating all the fish tomorrow...I mean, playing respectful poker.  Anyone gonna be there?  Come up and say hi.  I'll be the one in the poker room.


  1. against a table bully what I like to do is draw his attention towards me.
    He'll start by saying something negative about how a fish played their hand and immediately I start complimenting them and telling them they must have done a good job as they were pushed the pot and he wasn't. he must be pretty stupid to not know that, etc.
    So I try to draw his ire and anger or whatever away from the fish and onto me.

    The bully hates me and probably plays differently against me because I'm defending the fish and pissing him off.
    The fish likes me because I'm being his buddy and having a good time with him and then gives me even better info about his hand
    "Oh, I'll just check this time since it's you in the hand." type of thing.

    I love table dynamics sometimes

    1. Grrouchy, that's genius. Myself I couldn't pull it off because I can't really fake emotion and would end up hating him so much that it would affect MY play! But if you can make that work, you've got deeper skills than I, and freely admitted.

  2. It's too bad you don't have strong feelings about this! Hope you pull down a ton o' dough. Being jealous right now that I'm not in my cah on the way down there.

    1. mmm...ton o' dough...if visualization is half of accomplishment, I'm friggin half-way there man...

  3. You may be right and I may be wrong, but I don't associate the term "Table Bully" with the obnoxious behavior you describe, especially at the beginning of the post. I thought a Table bully was a LAG with a big stack who kept raising people out of hands or putting them in very difficult decisions and gets away with it--to the degree that he does--because of all those chips in front of him.

    Now once you started describing his PLAY, then I see what I consider a Table Bully.

    But the behavior at the table you describe, berating the players, criticizing their play, bragging about what a "poker genius" he is (and it's almost always a "he"), doing things to chase away the fish....what do I call that guy if not a Table Bully?

    Simple. That's an Asshole.

    1. HA! That was awesome, man. Humor is all about the surprise, and I did NOT see 'asshole' coming. Ah, Rob...that's +1 for sure.

    2. FYI, just put a link in my latest post to this, YES, it was relavant!