Thoughts from the Felt: "I'm Sorry"

Published On: 13 May 2009 / Modified: 29 June 2018
Created By: Sean Lind
J-Mad busts Matt Stout

With all the ego and trash talking between the degenerates at every poker table, it may seem odd to get upset over the phrase "I'm sorry."

Like any competitive sport or activity, poker is a game of respect. You can be a lot of things at a poker table, and how you act and play is entirely up to you.

But at the end of the day you need to have respect for the rules, other players and the house for the game to function.

To an outside observer, poker may seem like a rogue game full of social miscreants. Players are bluffing, goading, needling, angling and juicing the other players, all in an effort to take as much money from everyone else on the table as possible.

In reality, all of these actions are fair game and considered part of poker. Remarkably, the vast majority of players are able to partake in some or all of these activities without having, or showing, any disrespect for the game or its players.

Although it may be very fine, there is a line between acceptable actions and outright disrespect. For example:


"Be careful, this could be an expensive choice you're about to make" = Angling

"Come on fish, donk off another stack on your draw" = Jerk


"Put that straddle in there! Let's get some action on this table" = Juicing

"Yeah, as if anyone's going to give you action, you're even too much a nit to put in a straddle" = Douche


Attack the Game, Not the Players

What it comes down to: you can attack the game, but not the players.

It's one thing to call the game action-less, but it's another to blame that lack of action on a specific player. Luckily, the majority of poker players in the world understand these concepts.

The vast majority of poker players are there to have a good time. The last thing they want to do is insult or upset the other players.

Even the players who like to juice and angle are typically doing it with respect for the other players on the table.

Phil Hellmuth
Not nice, not sorry.

The problem I have is with the simple phrase "I'm sorry."

Most of the people saying it are legitimately trying to be nice. They don't mean any disrespect at all. In the likeness of Larry David, I find this rather ignorant.

You came to the poker table with the intention of winning money. You entered into the pot against me hoping to win my money. When it went all in, and you found out that you had two outs to win the pot, you were begging, screaming, praying and willing for your card to hit the river.

When you card does come, and you do win, you're utterly relieved and exuberant. The very last thing in the world that you are at that moment is sorry.

The day I see someone refuse to take the pot and give it to the player who got sucked out on, that's the day I'll believe that they are legitimately sorry.

It's ok to suck out, that's part of poker. I've done it, and I promise I will do it again. I can promise that it will happen against you.

If you're going to play poker, it's impossible not to be involved in suck outs. Even one-outers are going to show up in your game.

You're not going to be sorry for hitting them; in fact you're going to be grateful. When you say "I'm sorry," all you're doing is lying to the person you just beat.

Now not only are they losing the pot, and maybe their stack, they have you lying to them at the same time.

It's not your job to make the loser of the pot feel better. If you really can't help but be a nice guy, just say "nice hand." You don't need to say "I got lucky."

Trust me, they already know exactly how lucky you got.

So next time you hit your miracle card on the river, just remember to be grateful, not apologetic. Thank the dealer if you like (they always appreciate the tips) and move on to the next hand: simple as that.


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AnaB 2009-05-26 16:41:00

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You can stuff your sorrys in a sack 2009-05-22 18:02:00

Empathatic poker players have an edge on players that can't relate to what others are feeling. Of course you can feel two conflicting emotions at once. You are happy you won. At the same time, from personal experience, you've also gotten your money in good and seen some idiot make a mistake (like you just did) and get lucky to win. So, you do (or can) feel sorry for your opponent for the same experience.

There are two outcomes so of course you'd rather the one where you win vs. lose. At the same time, you'd rather win your money without making a bad mistake and having to suck out. I usually say, "You outplayed me... that's a tough beat." I'm genuinely sorry for two reasons, one I made a mistake (I'm more focused on making correct decisions than dragging pots) and two, an honorable and skilled opponent got unlucky.

People that get upset because somebody honestly feels sorrry for them are doomed to be losing players. Obviously, they lack true empathy to realize that others are capable of complex and conflicting emotion. Two they tilt too easily and are sore losers. And three, they don't realize the goal in poker is to make the right decisions vs. the wrong ones (and getting lucky). Thinking winning the pot superceeds all else is the very definition of results oriented (in the most short-term way possible).

They probably get "I'm sorry" more than other players because their self-pity and descension into tilt is so obvious to everybody else--especially the empathetic player-- that people seek to console the other guy. Though, I guess those guys also get the insincere apologies more often, because people are trying to console the now tilting bad player and keep him from leaving just because for once he got his money in good (even though he lost).

Sean Lind 2009-05-22 00:40:00

Hey Linq, yeah that all makes sense. I think at that point the other player is more like a friend, you don't want to beat a friend, but in that situation you have no choice, since there's no one else left to beat.

When it's your friend, or a situation like that, I'm sorry is somewhat legitimate.

It's when someone who doesn't care about me in any way, or even dislikes me, says sorry that it really tilts me.

linq21 2009-05-21 22:26:00

after some more thought on the situation I tend to agree with you on the "i'm sorry" in most cases. For the most part it is just an offhand remark not meant with much sincerity. (sorry about my spelling btw, my vocabulary is much better than my spelling ability). But I do still think that it is possilble to feel 2 oposing emotions as a result of the same occurance. This is because you are feeling two different ways about 2 different results of the same occurance. For example we are HU at a major event after playing with each other off and on for the last couple of days and I have developed a deep respect for your game. After a marathon back and forth battle you finally make a brilliant play to get all in with 1 out, almost gaurenteeing you to double up and leave me with one blind left. we both stand up and all i keep repeating that card in my head until it magically appears on the river, I jump and yell estacially at my good fortune feelin like the million dollars I just won. Now I calm down a bit and look over to see you looking like your fighting back the urge to strangle both me and the dealer. Now due to my respect for you and the game you play leads me to indeed be sorry not because I won but because of the manner in which I won. So I shug and utter 'sorry man'. So to sumarrize, I am feeling unbeleivalby happy about winning and a little down and embarrassed about the way I did it and robbing you of the win. which is 2 different emotions in reponse to 2 differnent results of one occurance. hope that made some sense and didnt ramble too much.

Sean Lind 2009-05-20 22:25:00

Hey linq21, thanks for the comment.

Although I agree with what you're saying, I don't agree that it's possible to feel two emotions, which directly contradict each other, at the same time, when both emotions are direct results of one act.

If you're happy about something, you can't also be sad about the exact same thing at the exact same time, as with everything else in the world, when two opposites collide, a neutral ground is formed, so you'd feel nothing at all (or would slightly waffle back and fourth between the emotions).

Also, when you're at a poker table with a bunch of degenerate strangers, you've never met them before, and you'll never meet them again, it's outrageous to claim that you actually care about how they feel at any given time.

If you suck out on your best friend, then saying "I'm sorry" has a lot more validity, since you legitimately did not want to take their money. But someone you don't know, that's a different story.

linq21 2009-05-20 21:11:00

From what I can see all of the comments posted can be grouped into 2 seperate trains of thought. The first being the one of the author, Sean, where a person can only feel one emotion at one time and therefore by being happy about winning cannot be sorry about their opponet losing. The second of those defending the "i'm sorry" statement: That a person can feel to sperate and sometimes oppisite emotions at the same time and therefore can be happy about winning and feel sorry for sucking out to get there at the same time. I personally beleive that it is possible to fell two diffent ways at the same time and I think it has been proven in studies as well...

Sean Lind 2009-05-15 18:46:00

Blackfair, the difference in a layoff is the reason why you were there.

If you came to interview for a job, knowing that if you get the job, they have to lose the job, you are not sorry by any means if they get fired.

There is no chance at everyone winning chips at the poker table. If you win, someone has to lose. That's how the game works, and that's why you're there. You're actively trying to take their chips, that's your whole goal.

If you didn't want to take their money, you would not have sat down at the table. Since you are at the table, you DO want to take their money. That fact alone makes it impossible to actually be "sorry".

I understand that your intentions are legitimately good, but the fact remains, saying sorry is a lie. You do understand the pain and frustration they're going through, but the last thing you are is sorry about it.

blackfair 2009-05-15 05:14:00

Sean, if I say sorry to an opponent when I suck out, I'm not saying I'm sorry I won, I'm saying I'm sorry they lost like that.

Its like in this economic environment when a co-worker loses their job. It was pretty much you or them. You tell them you're sorry they lost their job. And you are sorry. Massively. They're a friend, a good person and a hard worker. Of course you're not sorry you still have you're own job. You're not going to go to the boss to demand you switch places. But you're still sorry they lost their job.

Anyway, personally when I say sorry to an oponent, I'm not lying.

Willie Pless 2009-05-15 00:14:00

Please explain how you can be empathetic,, in words, when you beat someone with a low percentage draw?

Saying "I'm sorry" in this instance means "I am sorry for you" and implies at the same time that you are still happy for yourself.

It's not that bad really. If someone says "I'm sorry" to me after I get sucked on I don't feel much better but at least it is a reference from the guy that he realizes the situation deserves an element of suggestion - that suggestion being "I got lucky this time. You were unlucky. Sorry it had to be me that did it this time around but that's how the game goes".


Sean Lind 2009-05-14 17:49:00

My argument, is you can show empathy without lying. Feeling sorry is the exact opposite of how you feel at that moment.

Without a doubt "Thank you" is the worst thing you can say. But sorry isn't a good option either. Yeah, it sucks to get stacked on a suckout, but taking their money is what you came there to do.

You'll never see an olympic athlete say "I'm sorry" when the race leader trips at the finish line. You can be empathetic without lying.



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