Friday, September 17, 2004

Poker Annoyances

I play a lot of casino poker, so it was only a matter of time before I got around to listing my top pet peeves at the poker table. Hopefully, if you also play poker, you'll sympathize. If not, feel free to skip.

1. The New Setup

It was a close call, but I think this is the biggest annoyance for me at the poker table. Gamblers tend, on average, to be superstitious people. I mean, you have to be superstitious and a believer in luck and mojo, etc. to be willing to play slots or roulette or whatever. In poker, generally, I welcome the superstitious people. The folks who believe in "lucky seats", the people who think a particular hand is their "lucky hand" and they always play it. I like these gamblers. Their superstitions are amusing, and often they'll be weak poker players.

But I cannot tolerate the new setup. Any player, for any reason, can request a "Setup". This means play has to stop, the floorman has to come over with two new decks of cards, and a three minute procedure ensues where the cards are replaced, inspected and shuffled.

Players generally request a setup to get rid of unlucky cards and maybe introduce some lucky ones. Like I said, I welcome superstitious gamblers, but I cannot stand the fact that one moron can, at his merest whim, stop the game for several minutes - all to cater to his superstition.

The casino loses money. Every "setup" is maybe two hands that they aren't raking. I'm annoyed because I came to play poker, not to sit around and watch a deck inspection.

If I was in charge, deck changes could only be requested by a player if the player could demonstrate some actual problem with the deck - warped cards, or a smudge or some other defect. Otherwise, tough shit!

2. The Question "Can I raise?"

This is a question that a poker player is basically entitled to ask approximately once per human lifetime. Once the answer is given, there is pretty much no need to ever ask it again. I think the question "Can I raise?" is about the same as asking "Does a queen beat a jack?" or "Do I have to wear pants?" or "What year is it?"

While it's possible that someone might be confused about whether the action is already capped and therefore might ask if he can raise again, the vast majority of these guys who ask this question do so before there are any raises at all.

Here's the real story. The question "Can I raise" is, 99.98% of the time, not meant sincerely. It is part of a tired, cliched act to present an appearance of ignorance. It fools no one, it amuses no one. It forces the dealer to play along, and he's not amused either.

3. Acting out of turn

Who the fuck are you? Wait your goddamned turn.

4. Dealers who aggresively hustle for tips

Most dealers are very nice and professional, and don't hustle for tips at all. There are some dealers who have a way of hustling for tips that is friendly, full of good humor and class. This is rare. But there are some dealers, a few, who hustle aggressively and with an attitude. One dealer I had once remarked, with obvious irritation "You know, I'm trying to make a living here." after a player who won a small-medium pot didn't tip. Whoa whoa. Send this guy home for the day and tell him to come back with a better attitude. Ditto the dealers who obviously expected a larger tip after a gigantic pot but only got a small one. They let out a long sigh of irritation, because they only got one buck. Anyone who sighs with irritation after I give them a dollar isn't getting another dollar.

For the record, this is my poker tipping policy. I believe it's fair. I count my profit, and tip the dealer the 11th dollar, the 51st dollar, the 101st dollar, and every 50th dollar thereafter. That's the eleventh dollar of profit, by the way. Not the eleventh dollar in the pot. For something really crazy, like flopped quads or a straight flush, I might add something extra.

5. People (involved in the hand or not) who commentate out loud and speculate on holdings while the hand is in progress.

I like a table full of friendly, talkative players who want to have a good time. But when players talk about active hands, they often influence the decisions of the people in the pot. I can't count how many times bad players have been alerted to straights and flushes because of table chatter.

6. Players who refuse to chop.

Sure, it might be in your financial best interests to raise in the small blind with your ace-king when it's just you and the big blind, but come on. The two dollars you forfeit by chopping are more than made up for by a friendly, sporting table image. It's important not to look like a money grubbing jerk at the table, even if you happen to be a money grubbing jerk.

7. Players who slow down the game.

Sometimes this is unintentional, if a player is drunk or his attention is elsewhere. Sometimes it is fully intentional, part of an act of ignorance and slow-wittedness. Either way, it pisses me off. In these cases, the dealers need to take charge and force the game to keep moving.

8. Players bitching excessively about their bad beat or cracked aces.

I feel for these guys, I really do. Someone who had a great hand, played it beautifully, and then was stymied on the end by some idiot inexplicably playing a 10-3, calling every raise with his pair of 3's and catching his 10 on the river. I've been there bro, I know it hurts. But don't take it out on the table. Be a man. Suck it up.

9. Players who say "raise" when they mean "bet" and say "reraise" when they mean "raise".

Oooh, I hate this. "I raise." No, ass, you bet. When a person chronically misuses the word "raise" or "reraise", sometimes I just get so pissed off. Occasionally I'll respond by getting in a heads-up pot with this individual, and I'll start off a round of betting by saying "I reraise." Stupid, I know, but it makes me feel better.

10. People who take their anger out on the dealer.

There's no excuse for this. None at all. If I was a floorman, I would throw people out for directing verbal abuse at the dealer.

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