How many of you have looked up and watched as a loud, rude, and obnoxious drunk enters the poker game you're sitting in? The previous world of tranquility, the state the game was in, is severely interrupted! You can sense each of the other players rising up a few inches in their body-language demeanor, with laser-like precision, setting their mutual target in their sites!
It isn't easy to win any poker game when a player motivates the entire table to crush him, as their number one priority. To learn from disaster is not in the cards for some poker players. They may get lucky in the short run, but they have doomed themselves to have any chance of winning in the long run. It's as though they have reserved a cabin on the Titanic, that has already sunk to the bottom of the ocean!
We should all learn from players who are rude, arrogant, obnoxious, a know-it-all, or a continuous whining machine that complains about how bad all the opponents play, or blames the dealers for intentionally sabotaging their personal good play, when an opponent gets lucky and draws out on them. These are also sure-fire techniques to set yourself up as a target, with a big bullseye on your chest. Learning how not to behave at the poker tables may be among the most important lessons we can all learn, in order to avoid disaster.
Besides observing closely each player's betting habits and what type of hands they are playing and when… do yourself a big favor, and equally factor in their composure, especially when they just experienced a very bad beat. When their opponent hits that one-or two-outer, do they tap the table gracefully and say "Nice hand, sir?" Or do they rant and rave, carrying on like a three-year-old, having a temper tantrum? Players who are continually vocally steaming, are prime candidates to catch speeding during the game.
I don't think it is necessary to name some of the pros who continually display immaturity on TV… I'm betting you know who they are. I will say, those players who vocally steam and carry on, are unduly encouraged by many TV directors and producers who know it helps the ratings of the show. People who don't even play poker will watch to see if the nice guy beats the arrogant, rude guy. It is human nature. Unfortunately, some young viewers will perhaps interpret this misguided behavior as cool, and will show up in the various casinos to emulate it. This is unfortunate for them, most of all, as it is a recipe for disaster for their long-term success. Add alcohol to the mix, and inconsideration and rudeness will certainly make them one big gigantic target at the table!
Hats off to the famous pros who have not been sucked into this misbehaving train wreck. Players who conduct themselves with class, win, lose, or draw, are the ones that deserve credit. A few that come to mind quickly are Barry Greenstein, Chip Reese, Erik Seidel, Berry Johnston, Billy Baxter, Chris Ferguson, Bob and Maureen Feduniak, Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, Mark Gregorich, Allen Cunningham and Bill Edler, among others. I'll admit I'm slightly prejudiced, as he is my brother, but I would certainly add Mike Sexton to this prestigious list. The late Brian Saltus was known as a gentleman's gentleman in every category one can imagine, just as is a player in his 80's today who regularly plays in the smaller circuit events. He happens to be Jan Fisher's dad, Mr. Peter Fisher. There are other players who could be added to this list for sure, but most of us would quickly agree, the list of the misbehaved players would certainly be longer. Unfortunately, you can take that to the bank!
Daniel Negreanu deserves special mention, not only as one of the young class acts playing on tour today, but win or lose, he is an artistic conversationalist. He has the unique ability to gain a lot of information from his opponents, without having to annoy or constantly insult them. His banter is amazing to watch on TV, as it is mostly entertaining, in a pleasant way. As players who enjoy the game, we need to try and learn from the best on how to conduct ourselves better at the tables.
The message of this article is we should learn from both the best and the worst, to shape our presence in any poker game, as well as how to become the best we can be, in the real world, as human beings. Learning from disaster, focusing on how not to behave, is as important as any lessons we might gain from the best players. Remember that!
The Cab is Parked,
Tom Sexton is a featured columnist for PokerNews.com. Tom attended the University of Oklahoma on a full gymnastic scholarship, where he was captain of the team four straight years, becoming the first NCAA All-American and Big Eight Champion in OU's gymnastics history in 1968. The Sexton family is well established in poker and includes Tom's brother Mike, the World Poker Tour commentator and poker's "First Ambassador", as voted by his peers. Tom welcomes your thoughts and comments about any of his articles. His e-mail is TSStarbuck1@aol.com.