The Poker Shrink, Vol 19 - Bad Behavior
'The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an
intimate knowledge of its ugly side.'
I was reading an article recently in which Linda Johnson comments about bad behavior at the poker table. She's against it, and in fact so am I. But what (if anything) do players do about it? And should they? Quite frankly, if you believe that the behavior of others players at the table does not affect your play then I will suggest that you are playing the wrong game. Some of the worst behavior I have ever seen at a poker table was done to tilt the other players. Distinguishing between bad behavior as psychological gamesmanship and just ignorant player/dealer abuse is a skill worth incorporating into your game and probably a skill you already have but may not be using to the benefit of your game.
As far as gamesmanship goes we could cite Men 'The Master' Nguyen or the ever popular king of bad behavior Phil Hellmuth, along with hundreds of internet wannabes. Now whether the powers in poker want to regulate this type of behavior is really a question for each tour, each casino and each player to have an opinion on, write a rule to enforce or just talk endlessly about while the dealer shuffles up for the next hand. I personally find such behavior to be transparent and I either ignore it or even better use it on the player in a sort of reverse psychology. Let me give you an example.
There is a particular semi-pro player who stares at other players with a look that could scare a four year old. He also seems to make some poker players uneasy with his dark scowl. This past year in Tunica he tried the "face" on me and I launched into the following speech: "Does that have any effect at all on anyone but your dog? You actually think you are going to get a read on me because you look at me with that Phyllis Diller face? You can look all you want this hand is mine and you need to fold that raggedy top pair." I saw him try the "face" on another player who immediately broke out into a rendition of "You got the cutest little baby face." In both cases the Scowler called and in both cases he lost the hand. Gamesmanship is part of the game; whether you use it or it is used on you depends on how you prepare for it before you get to the tables.
Outright bad behavior also happens at the poker tables and you should also be prepared for it; again to the benefit of your game. If rudeness or dealer abuse changes your game in anyway then you need to step up to the situation. If you can let it go and allow the floor to handle the situation then do that; but we all know that floor staff are not always quick or decisive in dealing with players who are out of line. So what do you do when a player disrupts your table and your game? First, it is important to remember that the abusive player is affecting your game and your enjoyment. The key reason players are jerks or blowhards at the table is to get others to not take them on in hands. Sure they may be drunk or may have taken a bad beat or two but it's a card game not surgery, the shuttle launch or even a putt to win The Masters.
My first suggestion is to have the dealer call the floor. Notice I did not say you should call the floor; you want the dealer to do it. You accomplish several things with this procedure. First, the dealer is empowered to report the abuse, which they should. Second, the abusive player and everyone else at the table will know you not only handle yourself well at the table but you also will not take any angle shooting moves from anyone. You control the table by calling out the abusive player within the rules and establish yourself as a player not to be taken lightly. The abusive player has actually given you an opportunity to gain an edge simply by doing something everyone else wishes they had the courage to do.
Poker is a subtle psychological game, every edge you can take helps.
Ed Note: Work on your bad behavior skills while playing at Mansion Poker. Your computer monitor won't mind the abuse.