Monday, April 7, 2008

whining opponents

The following is a poker piece I wrote that seems to have been very well received on this board:


Doctor Al wrote

"To the whiner: Why would you berate somebody who made a low percentage play? Do you really want your opponent to play smarter? Not only is it whining, it doesn't even make sense. And half these guys aren't the best judge of "dumb calls" anyway."

Sometimes whiner guy is a fairly good player who wants to make us explain what we were thinking or wants to force us into being more predictable. Really bad fishing play on the part of his opponents is only good for him in the long run and not so good if whiner guy bluffs as part of his pattern of play.
Predictable players if they are rigid about it are easier to beat than loose fishing players. In fact, a very difficult table can be one filled with 4 or 5 loose players. Certainly over time they will lose money. But so will we.

If whiner guy can make us cautious about playing questionable hands, he can have more confidence when he plays loose as a bluff or semi bluff and put more money in the pot when he feels very strong. And if he can do that in a really intimidating way, he can get the message across to other loose players who don't want to be embarrassed, especially the ones who say, " I had to call" to explain their ridiculous play.
Sometimes it is a good thing to tighten up the play.

However, most of the time, it is as Al suggests. Whiner guy is mad at randomness when he feels he is smart enough to have almost attained the position of Poker God. He feels you have some obligation to play by rules that give you the best odds. Then he can feel confident in second best hands where you show no strength and in bluffing, and he does not have to worry so much about the river. Some of these guys cannot even count outs or figure pot odds. Just as the whiners at the blackjack table are often unable to count cards or notice dealer tells or understand that other players have no effect on the randomness of their play.
Only in poker unlike blackkjack, good players not only have permission to play long shots, but actually should mix their play up with such hands when they can be played cheaply and then shown loudly to everyone. Especially in limit where no single hand will ever be your entire bankroll.
Nothing is worse than to sit and play almost nothing except free flopped blinds for a hour or two and then get a winning hand, only to find everyone folding out of respect.
But often the whiner will get under the skin of a fairly good player and that player will begin to explain his reasoning, giving too much information, or even worse may embarrass whiner guy by pointing out bad play and so inhibit whiner guy from making his poor bets/calls.
To challenge Whiner guy at the table in my opinion is a wrong move.
I'd rather convince him that I am an idiot or at least that it is an addiction for me.
Sometimes I say:
"Some people can't stop playing bad cards, but I seem to like them best."
Here are some moves I like better than arguing with whiner guy.
First, to just get a sense of where whiner guy and the rest of the table are, I say as I rake in the nice big pot and smile, "When I can't play well, I try to play lucky." Look up to see who laughs. Confident players will get the joke. Whiner guy and his other pattern player buds will snort and think you are a lucky idiot. Both will be just a bit more careful pushing hard with second best. And other fishing players will feel justified in their own fishing.
Sometimes the players who just listen but are new or loose are affected by whiner guy and his issues. Just having an argument about good play between two players will encourage the poorest players at the table to reinspect their games. They might not mind losing money, but they hate losing face. You may win the argument, but lose chips.

Second, occasionally playing poor cards and showing them, especially after a long stretch of throwing away, is the best strategy. To draw attention to your bad play try to get whiner guy to make a comment. Then have some comeback that admits the bad play, but gives some emotional or superstitious reason or quotes some poker expert. How many times have you seen 10-2 played and justified? Plenty.
The bad hand I like to play is 6-9. I like it because I can say, "My buddy Howard told me that this one was just as good as Big Slick. I heard someone call it Big Lick."
I like it because it sets up doubt in the minds of people fishing for those middle straights.
Again, watch for the people who sneer.
I follow up with, "This is my favorite hand. I always play it. I find it is a good all- in hand in no limit too."
Whiner guy will believe you.
So now when 6-9 comes on the flop, and you have other playable cards, the semi bluff is more powerful. If you have raised 7-8 suited preflop (again more of a limit move at a passive table) on the button, why you are golden when the straight hits for you and whiner guy has trips. He puts you on 6-9.
And if you raised on pocket aces, they now look like two pair, 6's and 9's, so facing your represented full house draw, out go the straight fishermen .
If you can get everyone at the table to believe you, you may be able to push the rest out early, especially if you say something (not much) about full house draw. In cases where you just represented 6-9, don't show, but after the cards are mucked, just note out loud that "See, my favorite hands wins again." and keep whiner guy on the line. Sometimes you can pretend to play those cards all afternoon and send whiner guy away telling his buddies about the crazy guy who always played 6-9 and sure enough that is what came up on the flop.
If you keep it for a free flop from the blind, be certain to show it if it wins even if they all fold. Whiner guy will forget it was free after the betting in between and shake his head that you played it again and caught your cards. And remember not to correct his misperception by reminding him it was a "big blind special" almost as an apology for your poor play.
Here on the discussion board poor play might allow for apology. In a live game, poor play needs to be celebrated.
Celebrating a fake "favorite hand" is a great system.

Remembering that you are playing poker and that untimately your self respect will come from raking up chips and not from what anyone says. This is hard, especially for men, but important.

Abandon testosterone's temptation for poker's disingenuous dance.

My favorite example was when I was playing at the El Cortez one night with a smarty mouthed kid on my right and a loose-Mike on his right. I caught cards that night and had the respect of most players so when Mike bet and kid did his regular raise, I could reraise good pairs and push everyone else out. Mike and the kid bet on anything, so I had good odds. But it was pretty much a flop game as they would bet and raise their nothing again. I had to hit the flop. Then I would get paid. I was lucky to hit it often.
When I was first to act and actually had high pairs, I could wait to see where the table was before betting. If a good player bet into Mike and Kid, then I had to revaluate. Otherwise my reraise would be enough to limit most play after me.

Well, I kept hitting. Kid stopped being friendly and then got abusive. He referred to me in ways that were intended to be disrespectful. I stopped talking. Other people at the table tried to change his behavior as they were offended for me. The brush came twice to evict him, but I waved him off and just said, "no problem." Finally, no one could take it anymore and they tossed him out.
And then the table started to console me for the abuse. What lectures of how I deserved better, that I should not have had to take that verbal abuse, of respect for my age, that the kid was way out of line. What empathy, what friendliness.
It was amazing to me that I could be the top chip leader and take my three trays from the table and leave the people I beat feeling sorry for me and wishing me better times.
"Well, at least I was lucky", I remarked, "I just played all my favorite cards and they hit. Especially my favorite 6-9 hand"
Who knows, I might play with those folks again sometime. Might as well leave them with a good 6-9 myth top remember me by even if in that particular game, I never once played 6-9.

Three trays might not seem like much to no limit players, but that El Cortez game is started with one single dollar blind and the bets must be less than $3 until the river.
Tight, good play at the El Cortez over an evening might get $30 profit on average with respectful players. One fellow I know there plays everyday and is very good. He says that $30 is his daily average over the year.

I go mostly for the unlimited Myers Rum, the characters and their banter. For me it was like someone offering to pay me $5 - $30 dollars everytime he called me a**hole. I guess I would not take that straight up payment from anyone if poker was not involved, but Kid did not know that was the arrangement. He thought my reraises were just lucky bets.
So kid hit the road with an almost empty wallet while I took my money and had a fine graveyard breakfast.
We always want Whiner Guy to hit the road broke and so ticked off he can hardly eat a meal.
And we want to leave with all his chips.
If we can keep him whining, we have a much better chance at doing that. And if we can enable him to teach the rest of the players that we are not very good, but just lucky, well......that, at least in low limit, is even better than knowing outs and pot odds.

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