Recently, an excellent blog by Kara Scott got me thinking more about bullying in poker. The number of times I’ve seen a “pro” berate a recreational player for sub-optimal play (both live and online) is sickening to me. It is my number one pet peeve in poker!
I’ve heard the argument that poker is a game of emotional manipulation, and that raising a fuss about nastiness at the tables is, in effect, trying to remove a component of the game itself. Personally, I think that is just a weak defense: Rudely pointing out poor play may get inside your opponent’s head, but at the cost of causing them to think more about the game and improve, or leave the felt for good.
Many years ago, when I was learning the game, getting berated made me want to play less, but it also inspired me to continue to improve. At this point, I’m not berated often, but when I am it occurs online and usually results in me gleaning more info about my opponent. If a reg gets irate when I make a standard call versus him and starts hurling insults, I take a note on that player that he probably calls too tight. In reg versus reg bullying, the “victim” can actually have the advantage!
To get back to winning players berating recreational players, though, there are so many reasons why it is a losing prospect for all involved:
-Makes the berated player less likely to play poker.
-If the player does keep playing, makes him more likely to study and improve.
-Has the potential to make everyone else at the table study more and improve.
-Creates a negative environment that is likely to make the table uncomfortable and other recreational players at the table not want to play in the future.
-Has the potential to expose the bully’s leaks to other players at the table.
Closely related to this is another annoying habit of some “pros”: talking about optimal strategy at the table. While this is a lesser offense, as it initially appears to be a victimless crime, it has many of the same negatives as the primary topic at hand. These effects are magnified if the tournament is televised, as it is essentially giving poker lessons for free to a much larger audience than just the other players at their table. And aside from the meta-poker concerns, I have a more Emily Post-like objection to this practice as well– it comes of as arrogant and rude, as if the person’s analysis of the hand is so perfect that everyone is just dying to hear it. Did Garry Kasparov ever openly discuss his chess strategy while playing a match? I highly doubt it!
So, looking forward, what can I (and those that agree with me) do to change this? With the WSOP coming up in a few weeks, that seems like a good place to start! Having sold my prelim package, and with some action remaining in the Main Event, I’m really excited to get back to Vegas and hopefully to not see a single recreational player berated at the tables.
If you agree to stand up for recreational players being berated by winning players at the table, and to avoid discussing optimal game strategy on the felt, please post your name below my blog on CardPlayer. I will pick one of the posters at random to get a free 1% sweat of my WSOP Main Event action this year!*
Together, we can make poker a friendlier game at the WSOP this summer!
* Your post must include a way to contact you in case you win, such as email, or twitter handle to be eligible. If I don’t play the main event (I almost definitely will, but just in case), contest is void. Winner will have to fill out a W9 for taxes before paying out. I will announce the winner by June 1st, 2013.