Monday, February 14, 2011

Take all of it

After bombing out of the HORSE tournament at Orleans last night, I played in a cash game long enough to win back my tournament entry fee. I realize that it's completely irrational to look at poker results that way, but I ended up a net 30 bucks on the day, which made me feel a little better about not playing particularly well in the tournament.

During one hand that I watched, the table rock had flopped a set. He bet it and got called by a headphones-wearing kid. He bet the turn, and the kid min-raised him. Rock pushed out a stack that he must have thought was enough that a call would have the kid all in. But he had slightly misjudged the kid's stack, and when the kid called he still had three white chips ($3) behind.

To my surprise, the river went check-check. Rock won. Kid rebought.

I couldn't figure out why the kid wouldn't put in his last $3 when the action was on him, nor why the rock didn't bet $3 on the river. There's no question that he knew there was still money left behind; the dealer anticipated the situation and clearly announced that the kid wasn't all-in after the action on the turn.

A guy sitting next to the rock said to him, "It says a lot about a guy's character that he has a monster hand and won't take his opponent's last three bucks." The rock replied with something like, "I don't like it when you see somebody figure out how much a guy has left and bet exactly that much in order to get every last dollar."

I do not understand this mindset. I cannot imagine how it is somehow noble to win $200 from somebody, but immoral or a sign of some sort of character flaw to win his last $3. If I am sufficiently confident that I have the best hand and that my opponent will put all of his chips in, hell yeah I'll take them all. That is why I'm sitting at the table. It is the only reason I'm there. $3 isn't going to change my life, but it's not going to change his to lose it, either. The question comes down to whether those three white chips will stay in his stack or come to sit in mine, and I see no reason not to prefer them being in front of me.

My guess is that the rock on some level feels guilty about the win, and the tiny act of mercy helps him alleviate that feeling. But this is just flat-out denial about the cutthroat, selfish, dog-eat-dog nature of the game.

In the latest issue of Card Player magazine, Alan Schoonmaker covers this exact topic--how feeling guilty about the predatory nature of poker interferes with maximizing wins. It isn't available on the magazine's web site yet, but it's well worth reading if you are plagued with a sense of guilt about taking other people's money by winning at poker.

(Incidentally, it appears that Card Player has revamped their web site recently and in the process made it much less accessible and useful. I tend to remember points made in columns by who wrote them. I've always previously been able to search the site by author, but no longer (unless I'm missing something). Now the contents are organized only by issue, and those are viewable only via a Flash player. Way to go, Card Player--make your archives unsearchable by any efficient means. Brilliant!)

I realize that some people play poker primarily for the fun of the game and/or the social interactions, and genuinely don't care about how the win/loss accounting goes. That's fine. These remarks do not pertain to them. But last night's rock can't be among those. I've played with him several times before, and he's always nearly silent, not gregarious and interactive. He doesn't appear to be having fun. (However, I realize that people think the same of me even when it's not true, so I'll take my own assessment there with a grain of salt.) His style is to lay in wait with a big hand and trap an unwary opponent. By every appearance, he is there only in order to leave with more money than he came in with. Given that, I find it incongruous that he doesn't try to squeeze every chip out of the game that he can.

Got guilt?


Todd said...

To quote Herm Edwards (former NFL coach):

"You play to win the game"

Conan776 said...

Ha, pretty sure I took someone's last $3 just now at 100NL. I'm happy to say none of these issues crossed my mind.

unaha-closp said...

Maybe the rock thought he was behind on the river.

CrabblerK3 said...

@ Unaha-closp:

I can find a fold for $3.

Anonymous said...

I can see one reason not to felt a player, depending on where you are playing. In a nearby Indian casino, there is a local rule that states that as long as a player has at least one chip left after a hand, then that player can buy back in for less than the table minimum. (Don't ask me why - that's just the rule they have in place).

The only time I've seen that rule come into play is when a player was using a chip as a card protector, and moved "all-in" (without announcing) by shoving all but the card-protector chip.

After losing that hand, he was then able to buy back in for less than the table minimum, because he was still holding the card-protector chip. Of course, if he had announced all-in, then the point would have been moot because the card-protector chip would have been in play.

If I knew that rule and was in the hand and planned to call, I would probably have raised (depending on who was left to act behind me), in order to force him to re-buy at least the minimum in the hope of taking his/her re-buy later on.

Some people have friends and show mercy at the table. Not me.

Sebastian X said...

Maybe the table rock figured if it was all-in, then on losing the other guy might be more likely to just leave, whereas if he had any chips left, he might be more likely to stay around long enough to reconsider and buy in again, the rock preferring he stayed. Also, he might have thought it was worth three dollars to portray a lack of toughness that as a trapping player might later become beneficial. Your interpretation might be entirely correct, but does assume the explanation given was truthful, when a bit of projected friendliness may have been a ploy.

Anonymous said...

The mistake he made was not putting out enough chips on his raise to cover the guy. Once the river comes, there is no need to bet $3 to take the last $3. I've seen this situation so many times. The guy making the river bet to take the last few white chips always looks like an ass in my opinion. If you wanted the guy to be all in, then you should have put it all in.