Let's call him "Slick Seat Three."
Now Slick Seat Three regards himself as quite the poker authority. He's a young cocky dealer in a rival casino, he's a young cocky player in this one, and he has enough grease in his hair to start a four-alarm fire.
I remember the kid from arguments I've had with him in his casino. I don't think he remembers me, as I'm just someone insignificant in his world of poker expertise.
Anyway, I can't remember the specifics of the hand at the center of this story, but they're not all that important. What is important is that it was between two players - neither of them me or Slick.
After the showdown we see that the player who lost the pot has delved headfirst into the world of compounding mistakes. He started the hand making one mistake, and proceeded to make progressively larger mistakes in an attempt to compensate for what he had already done.
In short, he's lost his stack with a hand that should have won him a small pot.
As soon as the pot is pushed to the winner, Slick Seat Three is unable to restrain himself from berating this man, who is now broke both financially and spiritually.
"That was horrible; I can't believe how many mistakes you made. That was the worst way to play that hand there is."
Now if you've read the articles on tapping the glass you'll be well aware that this kind of talk is not only abrasive, rude and hurtful, but it's expensive to the bankroll of everyone else in the room.
So I retort, "Hey, there's no one right way to play a hand, man. You can really play any style you like; sometimes it just doesn't work out," and add "Nice hand" to the victim.
I'd like to pretend that the reason I piped up was to comfort this poor fellow for being castigated for a beginner's mistake, but in reality I just didn't want him (by "him" I mean his wallet) to leave the table.
A player who is willing to give away his entire stack on some sort of elaborate hope is a player I want to have at my table all night. In fact, I'll personally get the manager to come down and sign him over a marker for any amount the guy would like.
I assume my response will end the discussion, causing the victim to ask the dealer for some more chips (I hope). Slick Seat Three, however, feels that my interjection is a personal assault on his poker expertise.
"Actually there is. There is only one right way to play a hand in a specific situation."
I would just laugh and tell the guy "All right, whatever dude," but the victim is still listening to our exchange and I still don't want to lose him.
"There are many styles in poker. You can make just as much money playing aggressively as you can by playing tight. There really is no right way to play a hand."
I want to take a second to point out why I worded my response in such a way. Everything I was saying was for the benefit of the victim. For him to truly believe what I'm saying, he has to assume that I know more and am a more reliable source of information than Slick Seat Three.
Obviously, if he suspects I'm lying, I will lose all credibility. That's why I didn't say "There is no way to make a mistake with a hand;" instead I worded it "There is no right way to play a hand."
One comes across as an obvious lie, while the other is debatable.
I also throw in a bunch of stuff about playing styles. Playing style has nothing to do with the situation in that hand, but I want the player to rationalize his mistake by telling himself that "Yeah, that's right - I didn't make a mistake; I'm just playing an aggressive style and got unlucky."
People will believe anything if it means that they don't have to admit they made a mistake.
After I make my last comment, Slick Seat Three does something that I will never forget. It's a moment in my poker career that friends I've told about it bring up constantly, always in utter disbelief.
He turns around, reaches behind himself, and spins forward again, throwing his copy of Doyle Brunson's Super/System 2 at me. The book sails over the table, hitting me in the chest before falling to the rail.
As it lands half on the rail, half on the table, scattering my chips into the middle of the table, he says, "Read it."
The way he said "READ it" - as if that were the nail in the coffin and there was no further debate possible - killed me.
I sat for a moment, wordless with shock, then laughed hysterically. "Are you joking?"
His action raised a number of questions:
- What does this book have to do with the argument that "There is only one way to play a hand correctly?" I've read the book, as I'm sure you have ... maybe I missed that chapter?
- If you are the be-all and end-all of poker knowledge and brilliance, why are you holding up as your bible a poker book that, while brilliant and entertaining, is shorter and less advanced than other No-Limit Hold'em resources?
- Even if you have a good reason for reading this book at this point in your poker growth, why are you bringing a poker book with you to a poker room? How does that fit with your obvious intended table image?
- Most importantly ... who throws a five-pound book at someone?
I just cannot comprehend the thought processes that would make someone resort to such a desperate act. Nor am I sure how one is supposed to react in this situation.
Point being, live poker really does have a lot to recommend it. Sure, you'll see 60 times more hands in the same time period playing online, but you won't be so lucky as to get a gigantic book thrown at you by an opponent.
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