I’m as mad as hell right now, so brace yourselves for a rant. I’m angry about something I witnessed at a poker table recently — and I’m about to tell you about it. My hope is that maybe, just maybe, some of the people who committed this egregious breach of conduct will read this and learn something. If so, my column then will have accomplished what was intended. If not, then perhaps other people out there reading this will think about their behavior and actions at the poker table and how they affect others.
Let me tell you a story. This incident took place in one of Las Vegas’ nicest Sbobet Indonesia poker rooms. I was sitting in a $15-30 holdem game on a Friday night. The room was completely full that evening — with a good mix of locals and tourists, pros and amateurs alike.
Unfortunately, the game I happened to be in was not very good. There were no smiling faces. No conversation between the players. No one giving or getting much action. In fact, it was even by Las Vegas standards — a bad game. Just as I was getting ready to request the table change and rack-up my chips and move on to greener pastures, something interesting happened. And here’s where my story really begins.
A well-dressed gentleman approached the table. He was carrying two full racks of red chips (and a few assorted greens) in his right hand. I estimate he had about $1300 in front. The man spoke with a heavy accent. In the other hand was a large crystal goblet filled with some kind of bronze alcoholic beverage. Let’s just say that if ever there was the stereotype of a Vegas weekend “tourist,” this was the player that fit the description to the letter.
The man sat down. From the moment the man joined the game, he was extremely gracious and dignified. He was dressed immaculately. His suit was tailored to fit his large frame. His fingernails were polished. His shirt, cuffs, and jewelry were exemplary, even for the elegance of this luxurious Strip casino. The man even smelled good — his radiant complexion doused in expensive cologne. In a poker room — where most of the players dress for comfort — this man stood out like a prom queen on a cattle ranch. He clearly had more going on in his life than what he hoped to win (or would more likely lose) in a poker game on a busy Friday night in Las Vegas.
As the game progressed, the man in the expensive suit tried to engage the rest of the players at our table in conversation. He was extremely polite and looked to those around him, seeking out a smile or a friendly face. The other players paid him no mind whatsoever. When the cocktail waitress came to take a drink order, the man ordered “another” double. “Courvoisier on the rocks,” he commanded as he slipped the lady a red chip in advance. No doubt about it, this man had class. He also had money. Plenty of money. Playing poker was not a chore for him. It was not even a hobby. It was purely a social game for him. The money meant absolutely nothing. It was a night out. A gamble. A good time. Whether he won two dollars or lost two thousand made absolutely no difference to him.
The man remained talkative between hands and announced to no one in particular that he was a heart surgeon with a private practice in Southern California. Again, the sound of a cash register kept ringing in my head as I listened. As the hands unfolded, he went on to make a number of self-depreciating comments, explaining that he really didn’t know how to play holdem very well, but was trying “to learn” the game. He played nearly every hand he was dealt. As expected, the nice man eventually lost what chips were in front of him. After about 45 minutes of play, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a large money clip stuffed with $100s. Despite the losses, the man remained in genuinely in good spirits. He continued to tell humorous stories at the table and made fun of his own reckless play. “I think you have me beat, but I’m going to call you anyway,” he kept saying over and over — as his stacks disappeared one by one. When he managed to win a pot, he clapped and was thrilled with the victory. Whether he won or lost, it didn’t matter — the man was having a wonderful time. On top of that, the man had a marvelous personality. He was genuinely funny. I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times at his jokes and talking to the man because he was such a delight to have in the game. Aside form the fact he was the main contributor and was pumping over a grand an hour into the game at the rate he was going, having him at the table made the game more lively and interesting.
That’s when it hit me. As the man was well into his third rack of chips, something struck me. I suddenly became aware that I was the only player at the table who was giving the man any attention. The rest of the table sat silent, sour-jawed, and stone faced. Not a word was spoken. Not a smile was exposed. There was not even an acknowledgement of the man’s presence. That’s when it hit really me. Bamm! Those bricks of revelation hit me hard.
I looked around the table. I looked at the faces. I saw what seemed to be “serious” poker players — the guys that read all the books and know all the fancy moves. I’d seen several of these faces in middle-limit games at this casino before, so I knew this was the regular local crowd hoping, indeed praying to feast on an unsuspecting tourist. And now, here they had found one to pluck like a Thanksgiving turkey. Yet, they remained eerily silent.
Were these people sitting at my table really pros and semi-pros? I had a hard time believing they could support themselves with such an appalling lack of social abilities. Even if these were pros, what were these idiots thinking? Here was the perfect, best possible player you could ever dream to have in a game (a happy, losing poker player), and yet none of them — not a single one! — even gave him the time of day! I thought it odd that the man who was telling so many wonderful jokes and was making fun of himself would be met with such human indifference. It bordered on cruelty. It certainly transgressed stupidity. If others at the table did not think the man was as funny as I did, then for goodness sakes, you’d think at least thought they would go along with the spirit of the proceedings — just to keep this guy in the game. In a sense, we are all actors at the poker table and there would be nothing morally or ethically wrong with trying to engage a losing player in the hope he will stay in the game. That’s part of poker. But no — that would have been the uncool thing to do. No use messing up that tough table image or breaking the serious tone hiding behind the dark sunglasses.
At one point, I had to step away for a round. When I returned to the table, I noticed the tourist was gone. The man in the expensive suit wandered out of the poker room and into the pit, with a few racks of chips to gamble elsewhere. I concluded that the man left because he had no one to bounce his jokes off of. He had no one at the table who would smile or laugh at his jokes (and they were genuinely funny).
In retrospect, who knows how much money the working “pros” in that game might have cost themselves? That player may have easily dusted off another rack or two in the game. But instead, a blackjack table would give the man what he wanted on this night — social interaction with other people and a good time. He certainly didn’t get that inside the poker room. So, the big corporation got an extra five-hundred or a thousand in chips that night, and the poker players and poker room got stiffed with another stone-faced rock in the vacant seat as a replacement. Terrific. What’s worse, the next time that nice man comes to Vegas and wants to make a friend do you think he’ll step into that poker room? I seriously doubt it.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s a huge abdication of responsibility. On the scale of crimes against the game of poker, that’s a felony. Several people dropped the ball that night — and most of them are probably too stupid to realize it. The cold hard fact is, many of these pros and semi-pros you see in poker rooms are so utterly lacking in social skills — they are, in fact, costing themselves money. They are bad for the game.
This is one reason why I have never supported nor believed in the advice given by some so-called “experts” to always be silent and play serious at the poker table. Sure, poker is a serious game and it demands respect when actions are contemplated. But what’s more important, it remains for the vast majority — a social game. It’s not a game where making money is the goal, it’s a game where making a friend is what many people are seeking.
One of the most memorable comments on this subject bears repeating. It came from my dear friend, poker pro Linda Johnson. Linda said once that she has three primary objectives when she sits down to play poker. They are: (1) To win money. (2) To have a good time, and (3) To make sure the other players in the game have a good time.
We should all try to remember Linda’s advice. If you are not doing Number 2 or 3, then you are probably not doing nearly as well as you could at Number 1. We may have lost the nice fellow in the expensive suit forever. Who knows how many more novice poker players and tourists we will lose because of the stupidity and arrogance of so-called ‘serious” players.