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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Poker Stories: Dumb Things Said At The Card Table

Another in a continuing, occasional series of poker stories I've witnessed or heard through the years. You'll find more here.

Many times, when a poker player loses a hand, he'll say to his opponent, "Good hand." He doesn't mean it as a compliment, of course. It just sounds better than a string of curses related to the amount of money he's just lost.

I've also heard "good hand" said by players who weren't in the hand, particularly to weaker players. They recognize that the winner doesn't play very well, and want to encourage him as much as possible to stay at the table and keep playing that way.

All sorts of odd things come out of people's mouths at the poker table. One of my favorites is when someone calls another player's rather large bet on the river and the opponent shows the winning hand. The loser will say, "I knew you had that." No, if you knew she had that, you wouldn't have given her your money.

The inverse of that is when, in the same situation, the player folds and says, "I know I'm throwing away the best hand." No, if you knew you had the best hand, you wouldn't have folded.

These fall under the heading of Justifying Your Play. It also happens when someone wins the pot with an unlikely hand and then feels it's necessary to explain why he was still in despite being desperately behind most of the way. It usually goes something like this: "Well, I had a pair and a backdoor flush draw...." However, the honest explanation would be: "I played the hand badly but got very lucky."

There's no reason to berate someone who wins a hand and offers such an explanation because, as my friend Andros says, it's their money and they can do whatever they want with it. If you're a good player, you want other players to make mistakes a lot, because more often than not they won't "get lucky" and you'll "get their chips."

On the topic of doing whatever you want with your money, I'm reminded of a story from my friend Tim. He's not a poker player. In fact, he very rarely goes to a casino. But he and his wife were on vacation in the Caribbean a few years ago, and after dinner, they wandered over to the little casino at the resort. Tim took the last seat at a blackjack table and bought some chips. He's not a particularly good blackjack player -- meaning he doesn't count cards or even play strict basic strategy. He just wanted to have a beer and some fun for a little while while his wife played a slot machine.

Tim was shocked when the other players at the table got mad at him for the way he was playing. While he was winning, they were losing, and they blamed him, because he was hitting when he shouldn't or standing pat when he should have taken another card and, they felt, he was affecting the order of the cards coming out of the shoe -- to their detriment. After this had happened several times over the course of 15 minutes, Tim got tired of being berated, picked up his winnings, and cashed out.

When he told me the story, he asked, "Am I not allowed to play my hand however I want to?" I answered that, of course, he could do whatever he wanted, because it was his money. The other people at his table weren't the opponent -- they were all playing against the house -- and if his random actions had caused the dealer to bust more often and thus make them winners, no one would have said a thing. If they didn't like being at a table with him, they could have gotten up and gone somewhere else.

Or, they could have acted like poker players and, each time he won and they lost, said "Good hand!"