In Steve Zolotow's Card Player magazine column this month, he pays tribute to the late Chip Reese. He tells the story of having once found Reese, Doyle Brunson, and "two other very strong players playing." When the game broke up, Zolotow said,
"Chip, I know you're a great player, but why do you waste your time playing
in a tough game like that? If you wait around, there will be a lot of better
He laughed and said, "Well, buddy, if you don't open the store, how can you
get any customers?"
It's the perfect answer, as one would expect from Chip Reese. And it reminds me of something I've been meaning to gripe about for a long time (yeah, I keep a list--and it's a long one!): Players who won't help keep a game going.
Certainly everybody has the right to stop playing at any time, because you're tired, you ran out of money, you have other commitments, the game isn't good, you're bored, or whatever. Furthermore, it's not unreasonable to perceive that a game is winding down for the night, as players leave without being replaced, and decide that the action has passed its peak, and call it quits for the day.
But there are lots of other situations in which a game gets short-handed temporarily. This might be for just a few minutes, because a group of friends that were playing together all left at once and the floor just needs to call off the names of the players on the waiting list, or it might be for longer, as when a tournament is starting and there is no waiting list, but there is every reason to believe that the game will fill up again over the course of the next 30 minutes or so as other players trickle in. That's the kind of situation I'm talking about.
There are a number of players who refuse to participate in keeping the game going. They dislike short-handed play, and simply won't stoop to it. It doesn't seem to matter to them that their leaving compounds the problem for everybody else. They are looking out for number one, as they see it, and the rest of you can fend for yourself.
Inevitably, these are the same people who won't help to start a new game until it's full. That is, let everybody else get it going, then they'll join. They won't be bothered with sitting there while the table-opening procedures are gone through, or playing short-handed while the room staff find out who from the waiting list is still there. They plunk down their chips to reserve the seat, then go play blackjack (or whatever) for a while, returning only when they see that the game is in full motion.
These people are rude, selfish jerks. Yeah, poker is perhaps the most purely self-interested game in existence, but there are some aspects of it that require a cooperative spirit, and this is chief among them. You have to get the store open, and you have to keep it open. This is equally the responsibility of every player who wants to participate in the bounty of the full game that will usually result. If the table temporarily drops down to six players, and you use that as your cue to go take a long walk until it fills up again to your satisfaction, then you're not doing your share; you're making the problem worse for everybody else, rather than helping correct the situation. If more than one or two people take this approach, the game dies, and we all suffer.
Yeah, I understand that short-handed play is generally less profitable. I dislike it, too. Some people excel at it; I'm not one of them. I have a hard time adjusting my range of hand values and bet sizes for fewer players. Virtually every time I have tried playing a game with five or fewer players for an extended time, I've lost money. (That's not an inevitability; it's a result of my own weakness in that aspect of my play. I need more practice at it.) But if we all follow the lead of the selfish boors who exacerbate the dearth of players, that's it, the game's over, and we all lose out. Conversely, if we all just stay put, keep playing for a while, they'll bring in other players with fresh money, and we can go back to the normal, profitable game.
Do you think you're special, and that you particularly should be exempted from helping out in this regard? If so, on what basis do you reach that conclusion? Were you anointed by the hand of God or something? I kind of doubt it.
What goes through your pea-sized brain when you stand up and abandon the table in that situation--that it's everybody else's job to keep the game going for you, while you take a break, and fill it up so that you can then come back and reap the benefit? Did your mother really raise you to be lazy, narcissistic, unsocial, egotistical, self-indulgent, uncooperative, stingy, and ungracious--or did you decide on your own that those were qualities you wanted to develop? Maybe she didn't read to you the story of the Little Red Hen enough times, so go remind yourself of its lessons again: http://www.elliottsamazing.com/lrh.html.
Those people really torque me off (in case you couldn't tell).