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Rant: The Irrationality of Rational Poker Players

I am sat at the end of the table.

If I move any further I will fall into oblivion.

At the other end sit some of the greatest poker players on the planet.

If Sheldon Adelson and his cronies ever wanted to plant a bomb, hiding it in my vegetable curry would have been the perfect moment to wipe out the angels of our game.

The First to Raise My Hand

I’m at a function organized by Raising for Effective Giving (REG). 

Galen Hall

It's a non-profit organization created by three poker players to try and do the most good it can do by saving the lives of sentient beings and reducing cruelty and suffering.

There is no command-and-control mentality here. Seat configuration must be another story manufactured by a head that thinks too much.

Chairman and co-founder, Adriano Mannino, takes the stand. He is skinnier than I imagined although not in a fasting kind of way.

His blue suit looks like it’s been specifically tailored for his frame. I wondered how his balls breathed, and then quickly averted my gaze before he caught me wondering how his balls breathed.

Mannino spoke for 30 minutes and then offered the floor for questions. I was the first to raise my hand.

Rationality Rose Above

There were 159 members of REG and I didn’t think the number was high enough.

I wanted to know if there was any value in each member avidly pulling new members into the blue light like flies hypnotically heading towards the machine in the kitchen that goes … ZAP!

Then other people spoke: Galen HallDan Shak and Tobias Reinkemeier all asked questions. I felt knowledge far above my realm of consciousness circulate within me like my own blood.

I was suddenly struck in awe of the complexity of their sentences. My own sweet wet words suddenly felt damp and dismissive.

If I learned anything during that 60-minute tete-a-tete it was the higher you go up the food chain in the poker ecosystem the more likely you are to bump into someone who eats Pythagoras' theorem for breakfast.

Phil Gruissem

It was easy to see why the likes of Igor KurganovLiv Boeree and Philipp Gruissem had founded REG; it was easy to see why Justin BonomoGalen Hall and Evan Jarvis were contemplating joining them.

Rationality rose above the naan bread and lime pickle. The place reeked of it.

The Dream is Always the Same

When I go to bed I dream about being an astronaut. The dream is always the same.

I open the door of the airlock, look down at the blue-and-white world below me and then glide out into the darkness.

Tonight it was different. The airlock was circular and the equipment on my back was square. I couldn’t get out of the hole.

I was not going to achieve my dream. Then a rational poker player came from nowhere, redesigned the airlock and pushed me out into space.

Then I woke up and read this on the WSOP.com blog.

Sergio Castelluccio Doubles Through Martin Jacobson
Sergio Castelluccio gets into a preflop battle from early position against Martin Jacobson in the hijack. Castelluccio gets his last 261,400 into the middle and the cards are tabled. Castelluccio shows K♠ K♥ and is in great shape to double up against Jacobson's A♠ K♠.
"I folded ace-queen," said Phil Hellmuth before the dealer puts out any community cards.
The board runs out T♥ 8♦ 2♥ 3♥ and Castelluccio doubles up through the defending Main Event Champion, but the conversation at the table continues.
"Did you say you folded ace-queen?" asked Connor Drinan.
"Yea, I did," replied Hellmuth.
"Why would you say that?" asked Drinan.
"Why wouldn't I say that?" asked Hellmuth.
"Because Martin is trying to have a sweat for $100,000," said Matt Stout.
Their conversation about whether or not Hellmuth was out of line continued for another few moments and then Hellmuth apologized to Jacobson if he offended him at all and the table moved on to the next hand with most of Jacobson's stack gone. 
Sergio Castelluccio - 522,800
Martin Jacobson - 65,000

Not the First Time Experiencing This Phenomenon

jesse may 2
Out of order, says May.

Whilst the REG dinner seemed to be whistling the one note, perhaps I had missed the picture.

Did I dream that I was surrounded by the most rational people I had ever met in my life when all the time I was actually out in space?

How could some of the most intelligent and rational poker players that I have ever shared a biryani with suddenly believe that Phil Hellmuth was out of line by telling Martin Jacobson his chances of winning the hand were much reduced because he had folded one of his outs?

This isn’t the first time I have experienced this phenomenon.

During an event held by Partypoker in Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium I was nursing a 5-10bb stack when I folded pocket deuces to a button raise.

My friend Ben Carpenter was seated in the big blind. He moved all-in and the button called. Carpenter turned over deuces.

“I’m sorry Ben,” I said. “I folded your other two outs.”

Nothing was said in the moment. Carpenter was eliminated and he shook everyone’s hand, including mine, before leaving.

A few months later I was in Cyprus for the World Poker Tour (WPT) and his brother and I were talking about the hand. Tom {Carpenter} was laughing because he felt it was ungentlemanly to tell someone he had no outs.

I couldn’t fathom why. I would prefer to know so I didn’t have to stare at the board with my tongue hanging out like a teenage boy. I approached Jesse May and asked him his opinion.

“Man … that’s out of order,” said Jesse.

There is No Sweat if There Are No Outs

What a showdown!
The goal is to get to the end. Or is it?

At the risk of stamping my feet on the ground and throwing my sister’s favorite bracelet into the mouth of our VHS player, I can’t disagree more.

It’s ludicrous to assert that a player is losing some sort of value because another player has taken away false hope that is believed to somehow heighten expectations in that moment.

Nobody cares about the flop, turn and river. Everyone hates it. Why do you think so many people can’t bear to watch?

Isn’t the point just to get to the end as quickly as possible?

Put them out of their misery. Rationalize things. If they have no outs then tell them they have no outs.

If they have one out then tell them they have one out. Let’s create a sense of realism here. There is no $100,000 sweat if there are no outs.

It’s an illusion. Take a giant hacksaw blade and saw this myth to shit.

The Thin Mist Has Descended

I’ve calmed down now.

My emotions have been quenched. The radio silence is on its way. The thin mist has descended.

The next time I fold someone’s out I won’t say a thing. My monologue will remain mute.

That’s me being rational. Now the next time someone breaks this rule, please try and do the same.

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