Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emotion in poker

I was just reading a pair of articles about crying in poker by Jennifer Newell and Martin Harris. It reminded me of an interesting little anecdote I read about Chris Ferguson years ago.

This comes from Aces and Kings: Inside Stories and Million-Dollar Strategies from Poker's Greatest Players by Michael Kaplan and Brad Reagan, published in 2005, pages 211-212. Ferguson has just defeated T. J. Cloutier for the World Series of Poker Main Event championship, A-9 beating A-Q, all-in pre-flop, when a lucky 9 fell on the river.

Ferguson bear-hugged Cloutier as the tournament room erupted. Family and
friends poured down to embrace Ferguson, who, in turn, embraced the piles of
money, a look of uncharacteristic, unmitigated glee overtaking his poker face.

By all appearances, the moment was overloaded with joy. Four years later, though, Ferguson insists that his display was as calculated as any of the bluffs he made during the series. "I kind of decided, ahead of time, that showing emotion after winning the World Series of Poker would be appropriate," he says. "Bizarre as it sounds, that was actually a conscious decision. If there were no TV cameras and no audience, I would have displayed no emotion whatsoever. If it was just me and T.J. in a back room, my normal reaction would have been to shake his hand, to tell him he played a good game, and to walk out."

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