This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.
In poker you can find yourself at a table for long periods of time with the same group of people, and this can make for a fairly intense experience. Many of the people you meet at the table will become good friends, good competitors or both. However, there are some players that will make your blood boil. Let us introduce you to ‘Poker’s Dirty Dozen’.
Mr Bad Beat
This guy is just a complainer and wants to constantly tell you how unlucky he is. He will never tell you about the time he got lucky on the river but he will spend hours telling you how bad he runs.
The best advice is that you should really keep bad beat stories to yourself. If you want to tell someone how unlucky you have been, go into the bathroom and tell it to the mirror, as you will be talking to the only person who cares.
Being a complainer is one of the quickest ways to lose friends in poker circles. It is bad form. It might give Mr Bad Beat temporary relief but it is at the expense of boring the hapless listener to death. In the worst case scenario a constant re-offender should be told to go and tell someone who cares. With any luck they may never speak to you again.
Mr Angry Drunk
This guy has had way too many drinks and starts to become abusive at the table. Angry and violent behaviour on the poker table is simply unacceptable. Intimidation is a part of poker especially in tournaments but you have to do it with a degree of charm and respect. If you are one of those people that can’t hold your liquor then you are best to not drink at the table.
If an animal like this is making your life unpleasant tell the poker room manager and get him kicked out. If they refuse to control his behaviour then find another place to play cards. You shouldn’t be a cry-baby at a poker table but no one has to put up with personal threats or violent behaviour.
Mr Grumpy Old Troll
This is the guy who has been playing poker since well before you were born. He doesn’t have a life or anything interesting to say – he just sits there folding and moaning until he gets dealt a monster hand. His rock-like mentality means he shouldn’t hurt good players but eventually he will take money off the odd fish that is crazy enough to reward his AA or KK.
The really bad ones will also be sticklers for over-the-top niggly rules. The odd swear word or misdemeanour will see them complain and moan like it is the end of the world. They will look for every angle possible regardless of how ethical it is and usually they are cheap Charlies who look for cheap or free anything. Mr Grumpy Old Troll is often seen at the buffet stuffing food into his pockets.
Mr World Series
This guy has watched far too much poker on television. He can’t tell the difference between the first level of a $100 tournament and the final table of a World Series of Poker event. He also can’t tell the difference between cash poker and tournament poker which is really annoying as his theatrics are a waste of time in small cash games.
Mr World Series takes five minutes to act on almost all his decisions. He waits until the action comes around to him before looking at his cards. He sighs and puts his hands behind his head when making a decision. The bigger the decision the longer it will take and he will look at his cards a dozen times as if looking at them might change what’s printed on them or in some way make his decision easier.
These guys need to wake up and realise that if everyone else carried out their theatrics you would only get to play five hands an hour and the game would get so boring it would cease to exist. The best weapon is to tell him to hurry up and time how long it takes him to make a decision. Keep calling over the floor manager and asking for time. They usually get the message and speed up when they get a bit of experience and realise how stupid they look.
Mr Sloppy Drunk
This guy is not quite as bad as Mr Angry Drunk, but his drunkenness is still ruining the game because he can’t follow it. Things are happening way too quickly for him and he forgets when it is his turn to act. This type is most annoying especially late at night when the other players are getting tired.
He spills drinks on the table, takes half an hour to order another drink and fumbles with his chips. Unless this guy has a mountain of chips, is ultra-aggressive and is creating a ton of action you are better off with another player on the table. You might even feel good about yourself if you suggest that he has a coffee, something to eat or maybe grabs a nap before continuing the fight in a few hours.
Mr Internet Whizz Kid
This is the computer geek that has turned into a poker player. Now the very best players that come from this background are truly wonderful players and they should be respected. Some of them are also excellent young guys who are a lot of fun to party with. But the majority of them are pimply-faced idiots that think they are super guns when in reality they are annoying wastes of space.
They are the kids that always got beaten up in the playground. They have no social graces but love going to strip clubs and spending huge amounts of money on girls, champagne and cigars to fool themselves into thinking they are way more hip than they really are.
Most of these kids blow all their cash and look back on their past wondering where all the money and women went. The saddest thing is that we have to put up with these kids at the table in the meantime.
Mr Story Teller
Good poker players know they are good because they win lots of money – they don’t have to broadcast it. It’s a bit like running into a tough guy at a bar. Usually the really tough guy is the one sitting in the corner not making any trouble.
So most of the time the guy at the table telling everyone how good he is, isn’t. An iPod can be a lifesaver here as it will drown out his ridiculous stories. These stories won’t just be about poker. Any conversation that gets started on the table will be overrun by this fool who loves the sound of his own voice. The fish he caught will always be the biggest so just save your breath and enjoy quietly taking his money.
Mr Stinky just plain stinks. He doesn’t understand the concept of personal hygiene. A bath or shower is a foreign idea to this filthy creature as is deodorant or aftershave.
This is just plain disgusting and these guys should be asked to leave the card room. In the US they are more direct and I have seen people asked to leave because of the stench emitting from their bodies or clothes.
In a cash game you can move to another table or at least another seat but in a tournament you might be stuck next to this pig for hours. This is one of the worst bad beats on a poker table and if it is too bad go and tell the poker room manager as there is only so much you should have to be subjected to.
Little Miss Bossy
I love the fact that more women are playing poker now. When I first started years ago it was an overwhelmingly male environment. Over the years this has changed and there are some world class female poker players out there.
Women just like men should use everything they can to push the odds in their favour. If chatting up the guy next to you will make him check a monster on the river just to be nice to you then good luck. If you want to act like a kindly grandmother but really are a hungry shark and can get away with it then I take my hat off to you.
What I can’t stand on a poker table are women who expect the best of both worlds. She will use all her feminine wiles to try and trick her opponents but then expects preferential treatment because she is a woman.
As far as I am concerned a poker table is a place for consenting adults. As long as there isn’t any threatening behaviour then you should toughen up and just deal with the odd bit of swearing and stories of a slightly sordid nature. So ladies grab a seat and enjoy the game but don’t expect the rest of the players to treat you any differently just because you are a woman.
There have been a few cases of ex-poker dealers who have gone on to become great poker players. Names like Scott Fischman spring to mind. However, for the most part great poker dealers don’t make great poker players. This is because they have learned the game from a different perspective than the players.
The only way you get to learn poker is by playing poker, losing your own money and making your own mistakes. Unfortunately dealers often think they know it all, and have seen it all, before they have paid their dues as a player. Watching an idiot make mistakes doesn’t mean that you will avoid the same pitfalls.
This makes most ex-dealers easy prey at a poker table. This is a good thing but again the problem is that you have to listen to their stories and put up with their antics. They love to tell players what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Put on the iPod and just enjoy taking their money. They will be back on the other side of the table soon enough.
Mr (or Miss) B (or C or D) Grade Celebrity
The World Series of Poker has attracted every kind of idiot known to man. It has also attracted B-grade celebrities to its tables in record numbers. Some would say Z-grade celebrities. The producers of poker television shows with “celebrities” are to blame here, as they have made some of the worst television going around.
Poker has its own celebrities and many of them are unlikeable and big headed so why do we have to add to the problem with the cameras flashing at former movie and sporting stars wanting to re-brand themselves as poker players. Like many of the ‘dirty dozen’ groups mentioned here, these guys represent great value if you can ignore their star status and concentrate on taking their money.
There are plenty of very rich people that love to play poker. This is a great thing as they bring big dollars to the table. They also love action and can afford to leave wads of cash behind when they lose.
Most of the time they love to gamble and that’s just the way we want it. Even if people from this group seriously focus on becoming good poker players they often struggle. They are used to getting everything their own way and they have had that luxury for a long time. They think that if they throw enough money, time and energy at the game of poker eventually success will come. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for us) this is not the case and many a successful businessman has found his match at a poker table.
So why do they find themselves in the ‘dirty dozen’? Truth be known, they only just scrape in, as you definitely want Mr Billionaire on your table. But they are nearly always arrogant which can be annoying. For the average poker player trying to make a living, disregard for large sums of money can be distasteful.
The most annoying thing is that these guys get lucky sometimes – you can find yourself involved in a train wreck of a hand, where the fat cat finds the miracle card on the river to suck out on you. You did nothing wrong but you lose the shirt off your back anyway. But don’t complain about it – or else you will have come full circle and become Mr Bad Beat yourself!
Make sure you stay alert at the poker tables and identify these unpleasant characters if they plonk themselves next to you. If you’re in a long haul tournament and you can’t move, prepare yourself for one of those ‘character-building’ life experiences.