Friday, February 13, 2009

Friends at the poker table...

It's said that you have no friends at the poker table, and that's certainly true in the beginning. However, once you become a regular on a scene as small as the Irish one, that quickly changes (unless you're a particularly anti-social shite). Once it does, you face a new challenge. It's much easier to destroy someone's dreams and take their stack in a tournament with cold indifference if you don't know them from Adam. Or gleeful spite if you do and heartily dislike them.
The truth is that it shouldn't really matter whether the so called villain is a friend, an enemy or a stranger. Poker's a game the object of which is to win the other person's chips. I know this, but still struggle whenever I end up at the same table as friends. This is a definite leak I need to address, and to be honest it has probably been there from the start. At my first major final table, I was ruthlessly indifferent to all but one of my opponents. The exception was a guy who had made an effort to get behind my facade and talk to me throughout the tournament, successfully, to the point where I found myself rooting for him when I wasn't in the pot, and almost folding a hand that was an obvious call because I didn't want to be the one to bust him out (in the event, I called, and lost the race).
Guys like Donal Norton apparently try harder against their friends, and that's the only really sensible attitude you can take. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if my "leak" has been guessed at by good feel players, all of whom seem to go out of their way to be friendly with me at the table.
I seem to play my best poker when I dislike my opponent to the point where I want to bust him badly, and my worst when I like my opponent and don't. When I started going to the Fitz, there was one player for whom I developed a strong personal distaste. This seemed to spur me to study and dissect his game to the point where I knew it inside out. Once I did, it was almost effortless to bust him out of almost every tournament where we ended up at the same table. The more it happened, the better it felt. It got to the point that I could see the fear on his face whenever he saw me at the table. He developed a series of nicknames for me that were meant to be disparaging but I took as a compliment.
Somehow I need to develop that intensity for everyone I will play against regularly, particularly the better players. I need to stop stopping myself from getting into pots with "mates" and looking for tricky trappy lines liable to stack them rather than more straightforward ones that allow them off light. I need to start thinking of people as "villains" rather than friends, as the swine who stands between me and winning a tournament or the bastard who sucked out on me in a cash game so I want to bust out of this and every other tournament. If poker is a hobby or a social thing, playing with friends is sweeter, but if it's your profession, you need to be able to maintain a professional distance from your rivals.


I once limped AK into my dads BB; he busted me in the hand. I haven't limped it since.

LOL: now that's the kind of ruthlessness I'm talking about!

Good post Dara, you will also learn that seasoned pros will try and use this against you. Never ever drop your guard mate as all the good work can be undone in a quick few seconds. Even a person on a table saying a simple "nh" or "wp" to u after a hand you have previously played can change ur strategy in the next hand u play againt that person, as u feel some sort of minor bond. This is usually short lived when they poke u in the eye later in the level.

Nice post as usual Dara (did I mention that you are my favourite Ultra Marathon running, poker player ever)

It is a strange one alright. It is like you get to know a few poker players, but really you know f*ck all about them. I know 2 players that play in the Fitz that have 100% tells the way they handle their chips etc., Every time I meet them they are so nice etc., but im not going to tell them. I will take whatever edge I can get.

One question I have though, would you be ruthless if your brother was at the table with you, or if your wife started playing in the fitz, would you treat her as a newbie and go for the win?

I find that if myself and Martin are at the table, we usually end up knocking eachother out. Too competitive, lol.

Thanks for the great comments Mick and Smurph. Mick: you're a true master at table talk/manners and it was a real privilege to play with you in the Deepstack.

Smurph: interesting that you and Martin are like that! I find it no real problem playing against Sean. I don't go out of my way to bust him but I don't keep out of his way either. I do know it's relatively easy for me to bluff him though as he seems to assume I wouldn't ever bluff him.

Mireille would be a different matter though. Would definitely be minus Life Ev to bust her!

Good one Dara... I love your 'minus LIFE EV' for the wife!

A lot of people assume when SusieWoosie and I play on the same table - that we are colluding(!) When in reality its the opposite!

E.g. when she raises and no one calls by the time it comes to me - I love nothing more than playing into her (if I can afford to... of course!) with a bag of spanners and get her off that pot... especially when I hit it goooooot! Susie likes nothing more than slowplaying me to the end with the nuts... meh!

Of course if she's in a pot against another villain, I'm rooting for her all the way!

In my mind: there's a serious race going on here and I intend to WIN... even if it means trampling over my friends in 6in stiletto heels!

Nice one Queenie. Seems like nearly all good poker players are imbued with that streak of ruthlessness.


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