I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been playing a lot of poker lately. That's not to say I'm not somewhat embarrassed each time I tell a fellow adult that I “play poker” — a statement which normally garners a response connecting the game to something along the lines of the lottery or Bingo. “Oh really? My father lost our first car betting on rat races. Hope your luck's better than his!”
While the game of poker to an outsider probably looks just as dumb as a collection of old people dotting their Bingo boards in a smoke-filled VFW hall, there is actually quite a bit more to it. (Quick, if probably unconvincing, explanation: Good poker players understand the odds of making strong hands and include in their strategies the payoff once such a hand is made; they also take free money from weak players, essentially guaranteeing that their odds are better than their opponents' over the long haul, just like “the house” does with a table game such as Blackjack.)
But poker is a crazy game, one in which the best players in the world cannot win every time. It's like Michael Jordan shoving Craig Ehlo to the ground in Game 5 of the 1989 NBA playoffs, hitting the game-winning shot and then learning that Ehlo spiked the case King on his way to the floor, hitting a gut-shot straight that cost Jordan the game. Seriously, shit sucks sometimes.
But what sucks worse than the fact that poker sometimes involves losing to worse players who are playing worse than you, is the fact that in order to play in live poker games you have to sit around with a bunch of dumbasses.
Do you really want to spend six hours sitting next to this dumbass?
I've been regularly playing tournaments at Hollywood Casino for the past couple months, and the company is nearly as bad as the play. Yesterday some old guy was apparently too consumed by the energy it took to direct his few remaining teeth to incessantly chomp on his chewing gum to raise his small blind against my 2-3, which logically made me put out a sizable preflop raise that he called. I don't even care that I ended up mumbling “All in” and having to flip over the 2-3 in front of everyone and then walk away in defeat. At least I'm not that old.
Sir, your cards are under your hands, just lift your hands up.
There is definitely a certain way you have to play poker against bad players. If they don't know enough to understand what a bet means, then there's no way to get any information about what they have or manipulate them into doing anything you want. It's just a fat dude from Greendale and his two hole cards against the world, and if there's a flush draw on the board, well, get ready for some chips to fly. But taking into account an opponent's skill level and altering one's strategy isn't so bad — that's what good players do. What really sucks, I mean really, really sucks, is having to sit next to someone whose back hair has crept up out of his 2XL T-shirt, connecting his body hair to the not-so-recently faded back of his head and who apparently enjoys talking to himself the ENTIRE FUCKING TOURNAMENT.
Other players enter poker tournaments knowing full-well that they have no chance of winning — they enter “just for fun.” These people are worse to sit next to than the 21-year-old from Colerain who's wearing reflector shades and a hoodie indoors (assuming he's not playing his Eminem so loud that you can hear it out the side of his headphones).
That's really cool how you stack your chips with one hand.
The people who play the game just for fun are quite possibly the most annoying members of the field — happy, fearless, talkative. If someone already plans to lose all of their chips at some point in the tournament, he or she is the most likely to do something completely asinine, such as call a beautifully set up bluff with some terrible hand thereby making good players look like real dicks. Worse than losing to a “friendly” player is listening to him or her complement bad plays by other players. Sometimes they'll complement me after I melt them for half their stack, to which I only will give a slight head nod, in my head thinking something along the lines of, “There was a 15-percent chance of you winning that hand, and I would have had to flip this table over if that happened you total, total idiot.”
Other super annoying types of poker players include but are not limited to: anyone who pays for a back massage while sitting at the table (are you fucking serious?); people who eat food at the table (bro, that Penn Station smells like shit); people who overbet the pot because they have a lot of chips (why don't you just explain to the table how you never finished 9th grade because the math got too hard?); people who ask you if you play online (no, I learned how to play at the O.K. Corral); people who think small pocket pairs are strong (“double down, no, wait, I mean all in!”); extremely large people (not enough space); people who ask the dealer for good cards (shut up).
It should be noted that the people who run the tournaments at Hollywood are super cool, and there are many regulars who have become friends and acquaintances who talk strategy and play together at other venues. Sometimes good players “trade action,” meaning that each individual has a stake for 10 or 20 percent of the other person, so when the guy wearing the Ohio State windbreaker and Xavier hat sucks out on one good player, he or she still has a small investment in someone who has a shot at making the money.
As annoying as the majority of poker players are, the game simply wouldn't exist without them. Poker is a crazy game, one in which you can trick someone into betting all of their money with only a 20-percent chance of winning, only to see one of the two cards in the deck that could beat you appear right before your eyes. But without such luck bad players wouldn't play poker, and with them would go the game's profitability. So it's good to have them in the game, it's just too bad they're all so annoying.