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Joker on the Table
(Anybody want a peanut?)

Wait a second, wait a second, whaaa?

So, I ignore the tournament-related brouhahas over the years and now I find myself in the middle of a discussion yelling match about talking at the table. I have to do a quick game of catch-up to figure out what in the heck they are talking about. It seems there are some new “rules” of poker, implemented with the high ideal of eliminating collusion. I’m all for eliminating collusion, but, sorry… someone needs to rethink this stupid rule so we can get back to playing poker.

Okie-dokie. To me, there are different kinds of table talk.

  • Fun: At a good table, this is the fun, social aspect of live poker.
  • Stupid, often drunken: Mostly unrelated to poker. Never-ending. Usually will include any female in the vicinity getting hit on. Often at a volume 2 notches too high. Try to ignore it. If it gets bad, the player eventually gets hit, bored, or taken away.
  • Poker-related (usually speculative), after all action: Fine. Sometimes silly, but kosher.
  • Poker-related (usually speculative), during action, 3 or more hands still live: Not kosher. Just shush until the hand is heads up or over.
  • Poker-related (usually speculative), during action, heads up, non-active players: Not kosher at table. Step away from the table OUT OF EARSHOT if you desperately have to discuss it with someone right that second.
  • Poker-related (usually speculative), during action, heads up, active players only: Should be kosher. Seems it is not any more, depending on ring vs. tourney and/or where you are.

Wow. Where did the game of poker go?

Part of me places the blame on online poker. Sorry, online-only players, but it’s true. Online poker inherently reduces a poker player’s reliance on the mental game. (Note: I did not say “eliminate” nor am I talking about the math part of your brain usage. This note was pre-panty-in-the-crack prophylaxis.) If you haven’t played a particular opponent much, it’s hard to get a read on them without relying on some nifty software that analyzes their play for you. Using that software is a mild form of cheating, too. Don’t pretend it isn’t. Sure, live poker players may talk to each other about a certain person’s play and table image. But the farming of statistics online using software is a crutch that will quickly become evident to you when you attempt playing live.

(And, ultimately, though people may follow a general pattern, each hand is separate… really, it is! Some people may follow their set formulas as law. Most better players will always have outliers. You may or may not know when they are playing outside their norm, but they WILL be doing it.)

Online poker has leveled the playing field in a way. It is both good and bad in that respect. But I am of the opinion that those that cut their teeth ONLY in online poker instead of live (and a few others that need to stop wearing thongs) have a need for very specific rules and regulations. The purpose of the rules may be admirable, but some of those rules (as currently written) are open to way too much interpretation and are wishy-washy at best. The online-birthed players I’ve seen complaining about these (badly written) rules being broken seem to want to eliminate the part of the game they haven’t mastered, i.e., the live part.

(Note (again): I realize that the better online players can still read their opponents. But you have to admit that when an online-only player tries to play live, they have a lot to learn. Granted, if they are good at reading opponents purely based on their actions, they will do very well and will learn very quickly. But, these kind of players, the ones that kill online AND can translate that to live, are few and far between. This note, again, is to prevent panty-up-in-da-crackage.)

Part of me places the blame on the poker boom. More people in a game they can’t possibly understand as well as they think they do = more disappointment = more sour grapes = IT’S COLLUSION! Well, that and the more mainstream something is, the more it is regulated. And also, the more money to be had, the more people try to find a way to get it = more cheaters = more sneaky collusion = necessity for stupid rules.

Yes, there are other reasons. I still think those are the main two.

But, back to the question of talking in a hand.

When it comes down to it, poker is about communication and the interpretation of it. This communication can be verbal or nonverbal.

Example: Generally speaking, I raise 3x the BB = I got something. The something might be Aces. The something might be face cards. The something might be 7-2 offsuit. Position, previous play, table image, chipstack, nonverbal cues, etc. all modify how you interpret that statement, but the communication is still, “I got something.” Whether you believe my “something” is anything good is up to your interpretation.

Some poker players rely on verbal communication as a large part of their game. Daniel Negreanu is well-known for his friendly table banter. He is also well-known for his seemingly uncanny reads on his tablemates. When he says, “I’ll fold my pocket tens to your 2 pair,” he’s letting the other player know he has read them. This is all part of the mental game. Maybe that player had 2 pair, so now he is freaked out wondering what he did to broadcast that. Maybe that player had 2 pair, so now he is relieved that the amount he bet let everyone know he had that and also made the chip leader fold a hand that could have sucked out on him. Maybe that player had jack shit, so now he’s trying to remember what he did to fool Negreanu into thinking what he thought. Maybe it doesn’t matter what that player had, since he knows that Negreanu didn’t have jack shit. And believe me, Negreanu is watching that player to see how they react. The read has not ended at the muck of the hand; the read is constant and unavoidable. And everyone else at the table with brains in their head is watching this play out, too.

This is poker. Poker is not a card game. It is a game played with cards.

Aside: Mr. Negreanu posted his take on this stupid rule here. You should go read it if you haven’t already, regardless of what side of the fence you are on.

Other issues:

Lying vs. Telling the Truth: Some people believe it’s okay to lie about your hand, but if you tell the truth, you’ve broken the rule.


So, I have pocket Aces.

I say, “I have 9-2 offsuit.” <– no rule broken
I say, “I have pocket Aces.” <— rule broken

That’s just plain stupid.

Interpretation: This is a major sticky point for many. You can’t make a rule that can be interpreted in so many ways that it makes the rule pointless. This is especially true if/since the rule is regarding something that involves money. People get extra mad. Poker has a bad enough rep… no need to make it worse. (Really. Go read Mr. Negreanu’s post… the whole thing. He gives examples.)

Poker is supposed to be FUN: Okay. Stay with me on this. Really. Poker is interaction. And the interaction should be something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy the interaction, stay home and click your mouse. If you want to play at a live table where everyone is required to duct tape their eyes and mouth closed, then you shouldn’t be playing live. If it gets to that point, then maybe we should have a place to plug in our automaton at the table and have an electronic dealer. Wow. That’s what I call pre-programmed F-U-N.

(Oh, wait, some poker rooms have those stupid tables with touch-screens and buttons, don’t they. Funny that one of those poker rooms I saw that had only those tables has since added live real-people-interacting-with-real-cards-and-real-chips tables to their room. Keep the online poker online, people.)

Lastly, the stupid rule is redundant and just plain idiotic. It’s not like casinos don’t already have rules that basically say, “We can kick you out for whatever reason we want at any time as long as it is not based on discrimination.” Duh. Businesses can do that. Bars can do that. Casinos already DO do that. Why have an extra rule that is poorly written and just plain stupid? Isn’t the rule already in the basic guidelines?

Any player that is suspected of or proven to have been involved in any type of cheating, collusion, abuse, or other bad actions may be given a warning and/or removed from the tournament/poker room/casino, subject to the management’s discretion.

Isn’t that enough?
I think so.


p.s., Yes. Post title and first line are a bastardization of a quote from one of my favorite movies.