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Monday, March 05, 2018

Random Poker Thoughts

I like when there's conversation at a poker table. The more social players are with each other, the more fun it will be. I've been in too many games where no one says anything for hour after hour -- so boring! Too many of them just plug in their earbuds and shut out the world, barely acknowledging the nine other people sitting nearby. I'll admit that I've done this for short periods from time to time during a long session, but I never start out that way. I'm happy to engage in small talk on any number of subjects -- after all, I used to do that for a living.

On the other hand, I recently played in a game where two players were so engaged in conversation they they never knew when it was their turn to act. Either the dealer or another player had to keep saying, "Sir, it's on you." This slows down the action and, in games where you pay the rake every time a new dealer sits down (essentially renting the seat for a half-hour, rather than having the house take the rake out of each winner's pot), anyone who wastes my time is also wasting my money.

If he has a choice of tables for the game he wants to play, my friend Mark refuses to sit down if there are more than three young players (almost always guys) with backpacks. In his mind, that means they're pros who aren't likely to give him the loose action we all want from opponents. That's why I laughed a few months ago when he and I were on a road trip together and both walked into the poker room wearing our own backpacks because we'd gotten to the hotel too early in the day to check in to our rooms. I doubt any of those young guys looked at us, two middle-aged guys, saw our backpacks and thought, "Uh oh, here come a couple of professional poker players."

Mark also avoids tables where several players have their iPads out, playing Chinese Poker against unseen online opponents on their tablets. I've also seen them reading books, watching Netflix, playing chess, etc. Like the two talkers I mentioned above, these tend to be minimal-action players with no social skills who can also slow things down because they're not paying attention to the game we're all supposed to be playing together.

In some poker rooms (but not in St. Louis), the rules allow players to "run it twice" if one of them is all in. There must be no other pending action, either pre-flop, on the flop, or on the turn, and both players must agree. If they do, the dealer then completes the board once, and then puts out a second set of cards to complete it again. Then the players expose their hands and determine who won with each board. Either of them may scoop the whole pot, or each may win one-half (or smaller fractions if there's a tie). The strategy is used to reduce your variance, particularly in pot-limit Omaha, where people tend to bet a lot when they're behind by have very strong drawing hands with a good chance of catching up and winning.

Running it twice is usually not permitted in smaller-stakes games ($1-3 blinds), but even in mid-stakes games ($5-5 and higher), it can get annoying when it's used too often. First of all, as with the problems I cited above regarding game-flow, it slows down the proceedings, so we get in fewer hands per half-hour. Secondly, I've had opponents insist on running it twice when they were all in for just a few hundred dollars -- one guy even asked if we could do it for $85! I almost always refuse to do so, because for that amount of money, I can handle the variance. I'd feel differently if the pot had $5,000 or more in it. On the other hand, knowing they can run it twice does tend to make many action-loving players push their chips in more readily, and that's not a bad thing.

Last for today: I'm amazed at the number of female cashiers I've seen lately with long press-on fingernails that extend more than an inch beyond their fingertips. It's always awkward watching them stack up or count down a bunch of chips, because they can't come at it from the top -- they have to use a weird side move that seems totally unnatural. I'm surprised the casinos allow it, but I guess as long as the count is right at the end of every transaction it's not a problem.

At least they don't waste my time by doing it twice.