Monday, October 29, 2007

To Speak Or Not To Speak?

When I walked into the Bellagio poker room Sunday night the host said "Hey look who's back."

"Robert for 2/5" I said.

"The guy who is always causing trouble."

The host laughed at his joke because in the poker room I never cause trouble.

It's out of the question. I wait for my seat. I don't say a word.

I'm a good neighbor at the table. I pay attention. I point out errors. I'm a witness.

Sure maybe I fold out of turn once a month but other than that I am part of the solution. And when I'm not involved in a hand I try to keep my mouth shut.

Why not? Being quiet seems to work for guys like Cunningham and Ivey. Their chips and bets say plenty.

So of course what happens to me Sunday night?

An hour into my session I'm chastising another player for what I felt was bad etiquette on his part. Afterwards I had mixed feelings.

I was proud of myself for speaking up. I said my piece and got my point across. Yet it's rare I engage in conflict like that at the table so it sure stood out to me. Here's what happened.

Our table was real wild. Regardless of bet size, there were usually multiple callers. It was common for 5 or 6 people to call a 35 dollar raise preflop.

Everyone had a stack larger than 500 when I sat down. I had no idea how everyone could be "up" at the table since the buy in was supposed to be 500 max.

What I soon figured out was that a few of the guys were definitely not up but repeatedly buying in for 500 over and over again. There sure were alot of chips on the table for a 500 max game.

The best part was it didn't matter if you hadn't played a hand in an hour. You could still open it up for 25 under the gun and get 4 callers. The action was absolutely unbelievable. I was in the right place.

One guy across from me was openly frustrated by the number of players seeing these multi-way flops. As if this made it a bad table. How could he not appreciate getting paid off like this?

Even on the slower hands someone would raise to 15. And then once one or two people called the next thing you knew there would be 7 players seeing the flop with 100 bucks in the middle. Putting this much money in the middle preflop really encourages the chips to fly around. There is definitely something worth fighting for.

I was up 500 and cruising along when I played a big pot with top pair because I felt strongly I was ahead of my opponent.

And indeed he did put his 227 stack into the middle bluffing with bottom pair. And I called down because that is what I do when I sense weakness. I am willing to be wrong but if I flop something and don't believe the other player I am going to trust the read.

I was in such great shape here to win this nice beautiful pot. And yet his two outer came on the river to give him trips.

It turns out he only had two outs because the cards that would give him two pair would also give me a straight. Damn I had him trapped. Oh well. Good play. Bad result.

His hitting the two outer was obviously tiltillating.

After the hand he says to me "I'd rather be good than lucky."

Why do people say that? It's really obnoxious when you've just lost a big pot to hear that. I guess people say it because they're embarrassed to have won?

I didn't say anything back. Nor did I say anything an hour later when he lost his whole stack to a runner runner flush. Boy was I dying to reference his earlier saying and discuss luck with him then.

After losing with the jacks to the 7's I was still up over 200 but admittedly sort of disturbed when I picked up pocket aces the very next hand.

It was almost too perfect because here I was feeling true tilt feelings. I could channel them on this hand. The guy to my right makes it 40 dollars to go. I raise to 120. You know sometimes I like to just call here but not at this table. A call will just start another parade of 40 dollar calls behind me. I bet 120.

It gets folded around to this 50 something alpha male sitting in the blinds. He's the table expert. He's been friendly with our most recent dealer, mainly complaining to him about how bad our play is,

On this particular hand the villain folds to my raise but as he throws his cards into the muck he needs to show how smart he is.

He looks towards me and says "I folded as quickly as you put your chips into the pot."

It's up to the player to my right who raised initially under the gun.

He thinks for a moment. Stares at me. It's one of those 50/50 moments. Either I have aces. Or I'm on tilt. Both are believable.

He decides it must be aces and folds.

Now here's the thing. I think that this guy was going to fold with or without the villain's comments about how quickly I bet my hand.

But I still don't think he should have been saying anything at all at that moment.

Fold your hand.

Don't explain to the table why you folded your hand. Especially while it is still going on.

Like even if I play devils advocate and argue that it didn't matter what he said, I still think he should respect the game enough to be silent in that spot.

How does a game of poker benefit from a player explaining why he is folding his hand when there are still players left to act in the hand?

The answer is it doesn't benefit the game. Nor me. And so I let off some of my steam in his direction.

"I want to thank you for not discussing the hand while it was in progress."

"I didn't discuss your hand. I discussed the way you bet your chips" he says.

"And obviously that has nothing at all to do with my hand." I said.

"I didn't discuss your hand. Just your bet."

"And my bet has nothing at all to do with what cards I'm holding. Why would it?"

It felt like someone ran into my goalie or hit my quarterback late and I was going to stand up to them for my teammate. Call them out on their behavior.

It wouldn't change anything about the hand or what happened but it would send a message. Hopefully he would keep quiet in the future. And perhaps an unintentional benefit was showing him I wasn't scared to stand up to him.

Most of all I was happy to mentally let go of it on the spot. Once I said what I said I was done with it. Emotionally speaking the experience was very healthy. I got it off my chest and moved on.

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