But the degree of control you possess as a player is rarely rock solid. It's balanced precariously over a pit of degeneration. The truth is, for many, a spew of tilt-induced aggression is never more than one bad beat away.
The feeling of belittlement that accompanies having the rug pulled out from under you can be crushing. After believing you had full control of a pot, it's heartbreaking to realize you've been played like a chump - a broke, demoralized chump.
That can lead to embarrassing reactions by even the suavest of rounders.
A Late-Night Session Next to the Kitties
The scenario about to unfold takes place in the MGM poker room on the $5/$10 No-Limit table at the end of a very long day.
Being that we all had rooms at the MGM, we tended to have a final pre-sleep session sitting next to the kitties. For obvious reasons, our MGM sessions tended to be filled with exhaustion, drunkenness and ridiculous ... ness.
Dropping to a lower limit allowed for casual, "fun" play in our inebriated state. I would typically sit at $2/$5 or $1/$2 with full knowledge that, drunk and exhausted, I had left my 'A' game somewhere around the 3000 block of S. Highland Drive.
One of my friends - we'll call him Hollywood - is a serious degen gambler, action junkie and higher-limit poker player. The largest game in the MGM at that time was a $5/$10 No-Limit Hold'em table.
The fact that this was a few limits lower than Hollywood's usual game translated into him unleashing fireworks at the table from hand one after he got seated.
So Hollywood buys in to the $5/$10 game, playing his first hand blind just for the hell of it.
Tonight Hollywood is feeling better than usual, though, and decides to play some legitimate poker. He builds his image as a hardcore LAG, shifting gears to let his image do all the work for him.
The maximum buy-in for this game at the MGM is $1,000. Halfway through a delicious Reuben sandwich, I'm not exactly sober at this point, but if I'm not mistaken, my buddy has run his stack up to just over $2,000 in the hour-and-a-bit we've been there.
Not being on the same table, I can't give any sort of description of the other players there, so we'll just assume they're the late-night Vegas standards - a morose, low-key crew of scalawags and degenerates that must stand in stark contrast to Hollywood.
Hollywood is that guy who pwns any room he walks into. Girls want to be near him, and guys want to be friends with him - as much for his personality as for the dime overflow.
He's very tall, built, intimidating, with a real movie-star quality. He's loud, opinionated and not afraid to let you know exactly what he thinks of you.
Am I Beat?
Hollywood's image is still intact. He's an action player steamrolling the table. The other players are all sitting back waiting for that one perfect hand to pick him off. He's quick on his feet, avoiding getting knocked out with all the skill of Chuck Liddell. (OK, bad example.)
The only player on the table to have Hollywood covered is a 30-something tourist taking the game very seriously. He doesn't like being bullied and overshadowed by this flamboyant kid, and is waiting to make his move.
Sitting in middle position, Hollywood looks down at pocket jacks and opens for a healthy raise. Hollywood's been raising a minimum of twice per orbit, so there is little surprise from the table, as everyone hopes to look down at aces. It folds to the button, who repops for five times his opening raise.
Hollywood puts the guy on a wide range, knowing that he has gotten fed up with the aggression and is looking to make a stand. The over-raise from position also makes Hollywood believe there's a very good chance the guy is making a move, since most players would try to trap with AA, KK or QQ against his aggression.
Hollywood chunks his stack, putting his opponent on an underpair, overcards or rags. Hollywood is willing to take a coin flip for $2k (literally; he'll flip a quarter for $2k anytime), and knowing that most players aren't willing to make such a wager, this move forces a fold more often than not.
The villain calls the bet, putting almost his entire stack into the middle. Hollywood, being the good guy that he is, turns over his pocket jacks and asks, "Am I beat?"
After it becomes clear the other player's going to keep his hand dark, Hollywood speaks again. "You don't have to show your hand, just let me know if I'm beat."
A reasonable request, to which the villain replies, "I need an ace to win." Since both players are all-in, the dealer deals out all five cards, Hollywood watching each street, expecting to see the ace at any time.
Flop [3♥ T♣ 8♥]
With no ace on the board, Hollywood looks up at the villain, still with cards dark. Betraying no reaction, Hollywood takes a breath of relief and tells the dealer to ship it.
The dealer collects the pot and starts moving the chips to Hollywood when the villain proudly rolls over A♥ A♦, exclaiming "ACES!"
Over the Top
Hollywood may be one of the most fun, polite and friendly guys you can party with, but he has a slight temper and a mean streak. Getting slow-rolled in the middle of the night is more than he can deal with.
After hearing the cry of "ACES!", and taking five seconds for the whole situation to sink in, Hollywood loses it. There are no discernable words spoken, no threats or obscenities, just cries of shock and disbelief as a 6'4" adult pretty-boy explodes out of his seat in a laid-out Superman leap over the table.
With Hollywood having occupied seat five, and the villain in seat two, players three and four, innocent bystanders, are suddenly threatened by flying fists and knees.
Amazingly, no onlookers get hurt - just scared, with their fur a little ruffled. The look in the eyes of the villain is the most pure form of terror I have ever seen in a poker room.
The scene is something out of a movie: chips splashed everywhere and Hollywood lying on the table yelling lewd words in a language he doesn't speak; the villain standing back from the table, relieved by having escaped with little damage other than to his ego.
The Moral of the Story
Staff at the MGM does an impressive job of dealing with this mess. Security shows up at the scene in force just as Hollywood climbs off the table. With an ensemble of players, dealers and security holding him back, Hollywood is unable to do any more damage.
Three security guards drag/herd him out of the poker room, while a fourth gets the whole story from the dealer. To the credit of the dealer, he does a magnificent job of explaining the viciousness of the slow roll; it's obvious both the dealer and security empathize with Hollywood.
Thanks to Hollywood's magnetic personality, he is instructed to return to his room for the night and let go with little more than a warning.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I'm not saying Hollywood should have reacted quite as he did, but I'm also not saying I wouldn't have done the exact same thing.
The moral of the story: don't slow-roll. Other than actually trying to start a fight, there is no conceivable situation in which slow-rolling is a good idea.
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