A couple months ago, I had the pleasure to make my semi-annual trip to Las Vegas. I play poker online at home, so most of the trip was spent engaging in the "forbidden" gambling fruits: the -EV table games. After three days of losing hundreds at the blackjack tables and sportsbooks around town, I made my first trip to the home of the pros: Bellagio's glorious poker room. I was impressed, and the style fit right in with my desire to take it easy and have some fun.
After a short wait, I sat down at a lower limit table, ordered myself a drink, and went crazy. It was a raucous game. I dropped $500 and had a great time. After just a few hours, I was down to my final $200 of the day. At that moment, I become aware of a new player to my immediate right. He was a 35-year old man, and I noticed him because I bet out of turn when he delayed. He was taking the game very seriously. He paused when the action reached him preflop and checked his holecards the last possible moment. Even then, he scanned two or three spots behind him before making his play. Suddenly, I remembered a fundamental truth: Poker is not just played for fun.
When I saw this player next to me, the lightbulb in my head cleared the alcohol-induced fog in three seconds flat. A challenge had been issued, even if the man did not intend it. My desire to win erupted. The results are unimportant, but I did win back $400 before I called it a night. More importantly, the new player had modified my motivation and behavior. I have no doubt I could have gone broke and left the table fully satisfied, leaving the new player to clean up and profit, if only I had kept playing for fun.
Sklansky and Malmuth point out that it is important not to take too long to act in a low-limit game, because it can ruin the "fun" atmosphere of the game and let others know you are playing to win. Scenario 1 is a classic example. In short-handed poker, there is an additional factor. Observation is critical. However, we often only consider our ability to watch others. This gentleman took extra time and effort, so he recognized the importance of observation. In the process, he inadvertently made sure other players noticed him. In short-handed poker, it is financial suicide to call such attention to yourself. If others are scrutinizing you closely, they will eventually figure out ways to counter your play.
Was this article helpful?