Friday, November 03, 2006

"Nice bet"

It seems I'm hearing this more and more these days. It's almost always the same situation: one player makes a big bet, everybody else folds, and then either one of the players who folded or somebody who wasn't even in the hand says "Nice bet."

This is completely inane. Nobody except the person making the bet can evaluate whether it was a good bet or not, because nobody else knows what the goal or intent of the bet was.

In one of the ESPN episodes covering the World Series of Poker, they showed Daniel Negreanu in a hand. He bet, opponent folded, and somebody said, "Nice bet." DN looked a little disgusted and said something like, "No, it wasn't--if I had made a nice bet, he would have called."

I wanted to cheer. He gets it--most people don't.

If I have the nuts, I obviously want a call. I want to bet the largest amount that an opponent will call. It's usually difficult to know what that magic number is. Only if you hit it, or pretty close to it, can the bet be considered "nice," and unless it's an all-in bet that gets called, or the opponent later tells you that you bet the most that he would have called, you'll never know whether you got maximum return or not. If he folds when you were hoping for a call, you blew it.

A bet is not "nice" or smart or any other positive adjective unless it accomplishes what it was intended to do. And even then, it can only be considered "nice" if the goal was a good one. Lots of bad players hugely overbet a pot on the flop when they have, e.g., an overpair, to make it ridiculously expensive for anybody to go for a straight draw or flush draw. That's not smart play. Yes, you want to give opponents incorrect pot odds to draw to a hand that will beat yours, but you also don't want to put at risk more chips than it takes to accomplish this. If the pot has $20 in it, and somebody bets $200 at it, and everybody folds, it just plain was not a "nice bet"; yes, it did what the player wanted, but it was still really dumb. So dammit, don't tell him it was a "nice bet"! (Of course, you also don't want to point out how stupid it was--but I'll deal with tapping on the aquarium in a rant another day.)

In short, it's virtually impossible for anybody else at the table to know whether a bet was good or not (with the rare exception of when the hand is shown down, and it can be seen in retrospect that the bet fulfilled the goal of getting a worse hand to call for an amount that was obviously painful and difficult for the caller to put in). I hate meaningless, insincere, or wrongheaded compliments, and "nice bet" is nearly always fits at least one of those descriptors.

So just knock it off, OK?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Who raised?

This is the question invariably asked by the doofus who is more interested in the football game on the big-screen TV, or talking on his cell phone, or whatever the hell else he thinks is more important and interesting than the game. He tosses in his call of the big blind, only to have the dealer patiently tell him, "It's been raised. The bet is $10." (Of course, this was announced previously by both the raiser and the dealer, but how can we possibly expect the doofus to have noticed that?)

And then it comes: "Who raised?"

Gee, I dunno. Maybe the guy with $10 out in front of his cards? Just a guess.

These morons apparently find it too difficult to scan around the table and see that there is either only one player with the larger amount of chips pushed forward, or that there is more than one, from which he would have to deduce which of them acted first. It's so hard to remember that action proceeds clockwise. Daylight savings time, standard time; clockwise or counterclockwise. Modern life is so complicated that nobody can really be expected to keep up.

Now, I'll admit that occasionally the chips are in a spot that is somewhat ambiguous as to which of two players might have put them out, but that's the exception. Usually, it's clear as day, given about 2 seconds of observation. But noooooooo--better to ask the dealer than go to that much work. Besides, it's always good to make really obvious to the whole table that you're not paying a lick of attention to the action--it earns everyone's respect that you have more important things on which to focus, right?

The other day I was playing at the Flamingo with a guy who thought he had a hilarious new take on this old problem. Every time he'd raise, he'd follow it a moment later by asking, "Who raised?" Ha ha ha. You're a comic genius, sir. Please, please stop--my sides are splitting from laughing so hard.

Friggin' idiot.

The only good thing about this stupid question is that when I'm new to a table, it's one of the more reliable indicators of who's going to be donating their chips to my stack, sooner or later. Those who don't pay attention end up losers nearly every time. So go ahead and watch the game, talk on your phone, hip-hop to your iTunes, chat yourself silly. It's annoying to have you slow the game down while we wait for you to catch up, but it's a small price to pay to get your stack merged into mine, you moron.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What you threw away

Everybody complains about having to listen to other people's bad-beat stories. And rightfully so, because bad-beat stories are annoying as hell. So I'm not going to start this blog with a grump about poker players who tell bad-beat stories. Instead, I'm going to start with the second most annoying announcement that players inflict on each other: what they threw away.

You know how it goes: You sit through what appears to be a pretty unremarkable hand, with a board of something like 8-8-Q-3-9. Then, as the dealer is clearing the board for the next hand, the guy next to you turns your way and says, "I had an 8-3 and threw it away. I would have had a full house."

I know that he wants sympathy, but it's impossible to give, because I simply don't care. I can't care. It's just part of the game that any starting hand has the potential to develop into a monster. The player seeking sympathy did the right thing by tossing it. He knows that and I know it. So why in hell should he seek or expect sympathy for making the correct move?

More fundamentally, that guy knows that he doesn't give a shit when somebody else tells him what potential huge hand got tossed in the muck pre-flop, so what on earth possesses him to think that I'm going to give him the Balm of Gilead to soothe his momentary sting of regret?

I try my best to pretend that I didn't hear such whines, or that I'm so engrossed in doing something else (restacking my chips, calculating pot odds, ogling the cocktail waitress, checking myself for excess belly-button lint, etc.) that I can't respond at the moment. If I can't seem to get away from the situation without saying something, I try to come up with a retort that will encourage him not to inflict such stupid observations on me again, without being quite as rude as down deep I'd like to be ("Nobody gives a flying fuck, lardass.")

My favorite is along these lines: "It's pretty damn stupid to throw away a full house." With just the right lilt in the voice, it comes across as funny, while still allowing me literally to tell him that he's stupid (though not exactly for the reason stated). It gets even funnier, though, when the poor sap doesn't get the joke (the excessively literal-minded never do), and follows up with an explanation, "Oh, it wasn't a full house when I folded, but I would have hit a full house on the turn." Oh really. Gee, thanks for explaining it to me, Einstein. Now shut the hell up until you've got something at least mildly interesting to say.

Maybe nobody will ever read this or any of the other grumps I intend to post. But if you play poker, and if you read this, do us all a favor, and take this opportunity to swear on all that is holy: "I will never inflict on another player the stupid, boring, idiotic announcement of what garbage cards I folded, no matter how big a hand it would have become if I had played it."

There--doesn't it feel good to have made that pledge? Don't you wish everybody would make and stand by it?