Friday, September 11, 2009

Am I an annoying opponent?

As mentioned in the immediately preceding post, last night my buddy Cardgrrl and I ended up playing at the same table at the Luxor for a few hours. During her February trip in which I first met her, we played together a few times at Venetian, Caesars Palace, and Mandalay Bay. But as we became closer, we mostly stopped doing that. We don't really want to take each other's money, we don't want to act as distractions for each other, and neither of us wants a seat occupied by a dangerous player (which each of us recognizes the other to be) that could be filled by a donating fish. So last night was, I think, the first time in more than six months that we have shared a no-limit hold'em cash table.

As we were leaving, I was suprised--nay, completely stunned and blown away--by Cardgrrl's casual, offhand comment: "You have an incredibly annoying table manner."


I've heard all sorts of things about my style of play and mannerisms at the table from all sorts of opponents, but I can't recall anybody saying that he or she found my style annoying. The most common observation is simply that I'm very hard to read, which, of course, is exactly my goal. And even though I tend to be about as hypersensitive to annoyances as anybody I know (hence this blog--duh!), I cannot fathom how anybody could possibly find the way I act to be annoying. I can imagine that people might find me cold or unfriendly (not mean or rude--just not engaging on a personal level). They might find me inscrutible or mysterious or even borderline scary/intimidating. But annoying? How can that be?

Cardgrrl took pains to reassure me that she didn't mean any criticism of me--in fact, didn't mean anything negative by it whatsoever, though I'm not sure that any amount of disclaimers can fully blunt the feeling that being told that one is "annoying" isn't especially flattering.

The best that I could garner from what I'll have to admit was rather intense questioning of Cardgrrl as to what, exactly, she meant by that remark (and I trust that she will feel free to speak up if I misunderstood or if I am inadvertantly misrepresenting her point of view) is that it is the highly mechanical, "robotic" and "automaton" (her words) way that I do everything that she found annoying and tilt-inducing. I asked if she would find Chris Ferguson's even more highly perfected control of body movements to be annoying, and she said yes. This was, at least, a little bit reassuring.

This idea that I am inadvertantly annoying to others when I try so hard not to be has me on life tilt. It's not only a new concept to me, it's completely contrary to everything I have tried to implement about how I play. I'm not at all trying to annoy opponents. I'm not good at chatting them up, engaging in small talk, making friends, keeping the game all light and fun, the way Mike Caro recommends. It's completely contrary to my nature. But I do try my very best never to cause any negativity at the table--other than what inevitably comes from being a challenging opponent (hopefully, at least on my good days) and taking people's chips. I don't want to be annoying; I basically want to be as completely invisible and unnoticed as possible, and being annoying seems to me utterly inconsistent with that goal.

So now I'm deeply curious as to whether Cardgrrl's perspective is shared by others. For those readers who have spent time at a table with me, please speak up in the comments and share your thoughts: Did you find my admittedly rather mechanical ways of taking my turn to be irritating and/or tilt-inducing, or think that others would find them to be so? Note that I am not looking for selective confirmation of my self-image and/or refutation of Cardgrrl's opinion. I am genuinely interested in finding out how I'm perceived, to the extent that that is possible. If you haven't played with me personally, but recall seeing other opponents that have a style similar to what I'm describing here, did you find them to be annoying? I really want to know.

Just for fun, here's a great clip showing how completely inscrutible Chris Ferguson is when taking his actions. Can you spot any tells here? If so, you have better eyesight than I do.


Anonymous said...

I would not say annoying as much as I would say frustrating. Since most players are there to have fun a mechanical "grinder" ect might be frustrating to deal with.

A read a post in cardgrls blog that talked about keeping the table friendly and it seemed to make a lot of sense. I mean a casual player is likely to intimidated by you

Rakewell said...

Yes, she is far, far better at that sort of thing than I am. I'm basically a misanthrope and find most other people to be unpleasant to tolerate, so it's really, really difficult for me to pretend to be enjoying their company. A diplomatic silence as to their inane small talk is the best I can muster; actually engaging in it with them is downright painful.

bastinptc said...

"I'm basically a misanthrope and find most other people to be unpleasant to tolerate, so it's really, really difficult for me to pretend to be enjoying their company. A diplomatic silence as to their inane small talk is the best I can muster; actually engaging in it with them is downright painful."

If you are easily annoyed by others, then it is not that big of a stretch to think that others could be equally annoyed by your demeanor. Not disgusted; just put off. Tiltworthy? Probably not, hyperbolegrrl. ;-)

Keiser said...

Don't try to be something you're not. For me, I think of funny things constantly, and I'll bring up these funny subjects when I notice them, whether they be about my tablemates or the conversation we're having.

When I'm outside of my element (i.e. at a social gathering, a party) I am very quiet, reserved, and rarely engage with people I don't know. I can imagine there are people that are like this at the poker table, and I wouldn't expect them (you) to try to change their (your) ways any more than I want to change my ways at parties. I *hate* talking to people when I'm not at a poker table or at work.

genomeboy said...

I wouldn't characterize your style of play as annoying. However, (since we've played a few times, and you were consistent, I feel my sample size is high enough to comment...) your playing style is deliberate. To me, however, if your goal is to sort of blend into the background, your style does not help you meet that objective.

To me at least, it is not annoying, frustrating, or tilt inducing. But, I do find it curious, and it is quite evident. Because your deliberate style is unusual compared to most players, I think it makes you seem a bit stiff and unnatural, which is noticable (which would seem to be opposite of the effect you're intending).

I don't think your silence is bothersome. One of my great friends, who is extremely witty and talkative, hardly speaks when playing, and it doesn't put me off. Neither does it put me off when someone else at the table I don't know is silent. As long as my tablemates are not obnoxiously berating me or another player, or being crude or rude to another, I don't mind their manner.

Butr, obviously, your adopted table manner has been developed in such a way that it must be profitable to you, so I wouldn't think you need to change. Of course, you might run a little experiment by trying to appear more loose. Over enought sessions, you should be able to tell if that style is more +EV to you.

Of course, for bad opponents, it won't matter (cause they don't pay attention enough), and good opponents will play you as your cards fall, so the middle group should be your target for that strategy...

Anonymous said...

You have so much to say in such a great blog, yet you can't bring yourself to a little small talk at the table?

Start small...where you from?...come to Vegas often? Most people at a table don't really want to have deep conversations but it sure makes it nice if you feel comfortable and can make some kind of connection with the people near you.

BTW. I stumbled into you one time at Bill's (actually wasn't sure it was you until a few days later) and you were actually laughing at the table. Might have been the pig races....

Dominick said...

While I haven't had the pleasure of playing with you at the table yet, frim dealing to you, I would say that your mechanical actions are more frustrating than annoying to another player. People who fancy themselves "tell-spotters" would probably have an anyresum trying to figure you out. I'm sure thats what Cardgrrl was implying. I don;t find you annoying, in fact, I have always thought you were quite interrsting even before we formally introduced. Being someone who likes to talk at the table and keep it loose, your "act" can be detrimental to my game, so it would frustrate me trying to figure you out. I think "Frustrating" is a better word. Ferguseon is frustrating, Havad Kahn is annoying.

Cardgrrl said...

I may find the expressionless manner and robotic three-light-taps-to-check especially aggravating precisely because I know Rakewell away from the table.

gr7070 said...

FWIW, Chris Ferguson puts his chips into the pot in three distinctly different ways in that video.

It's very obvious by the arm motion even though one can't see his hand/chips in the video.

Not that that means anything or that he does it consistantly, but it's plain as day to me - not that I'd be able to actually take advantage of anything he'd do at the table.

Anonymous said...

I have only played with you once at TI over a year and a half ago, but i do recall the session. I wouldn't call you annoying, at all, but I would say that you do not succeed in disappearing at the table. Your mannerisms are distinctive and anyone paying any attention to the game will notice them and attend to you, in particular, more closely. However, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. GL