The State of Poker 2019

Recently I posted a tweet that was way too harsh in tone and the responses were predictable. I was referring to negative traits of certain poker players that aren’t a good addition to the game. Nick Jones pointed out that my tweet was actually contributing to one of those traits, being a hater or complainer. I realized he was right so I chose to delete the tweet and phrase it in a more positive tone, instead focusing on what attributes make a player attractive to a game.

Negative Traits:
Winner
Slow
Quiet
Nit
Hater

Positive Traits:
Lose Money
Act Quickly
Be friendly
Be Generous/Give Action
Be Positive

Both saying roughly the same thing, but the first tweet was too antagonistic towards certain player types so after giving it some thought, I deleted it.

Many people misunderstood my meaning in that initial tweet. My choice, blame them for not understanding, or take responsibility for not communicating my position clearly enough. In this regard, choosing to stand responsible for my decisions or be a victim to circumstance (blaming others), I try my best to practice what I preach. Part of that entails admitting when you are wrong and apologizing. I have done that, and upon further reflection there were things about that first tweet I didn’t communicate well. Specifically, being a winner and being quiet. The other three are pretty clear, although people have a more narrow view of the term “nit” than I’d always learned. A nit isn’t simply someone who plays tight. A nit can have any number of the following traits:

-Cheap

-Angle Shoots

-In a 9 handed game with 8 other players straddling, wants to play but not straddle

-Won’t Start Games

-Quits the second the live one quits

-Won’t agree to a neutral EV gamble if the live one asks for it, even for small amounts. Example, playing a $5-$10 NLH game the live one asks if everyone will do an all in flip for $25. A nit says no.

-Constantly changes seats to get a free hand. Funny example that lead to a rule change at Bellagio years ago. Playing 5 handed, a player would constantly change seats and at that time get dealt in even if he went from UTG to the cut off. He just kept trying to jump around as much as possible to get free hands. That’s a nit.

Under no definition I can come up with is a nit a desired guest at a poker game. Not in the 20+ years I’ve played the game. I stand firm that nits are most definitely bad for a poker game.

As for Quiet, it was a mistake for me to phrase it the way that I did. It was my bad. I should have replaced Quiet with rude. I agree with many replies saying that it’s much better to be seated with a quiet player versus one who never shuts up. I agree totally. I was more so referring to engaging in small talk when someone asks you a question. For example, a tourist sits down in your $5-$10 game and asks you where you are from. Rather than give him a death state and not respond, be human and talk to the guy!

I don’t expect players to change who they are and put on an inauthentic show. Not what I meant at all, and it’s on me for not communicating that well. I apologize to the quiet players out there who were personally offended by that. If your shy by nature, that’s OK. If you can smile and laugh at a joke occasionally, awesome. If you aren’t comfortable starting table banter, that’s totally fine too. If someone does engage you in conversation, just be friendly and try not to be rude.

As for being a winning player being a bad trait, many of you took offense to that since the goal of poker is to be a winning player. Of course it is and there is nothing wrong with that! Now, having said that, if you ARE a winning player that means you are taking money out of the game. The other players in the game would do better financially if you weren’t there.

Let’s look at another example, you host a 6 handed game at your house and have 5 players confirmed. One seat left and its between Larry, the biggest loser in the game, or Bill who is the biggest winner. What would be better for that game? To invite Larry or Bill? Obviously Larry gets that call every time.

The point of this is to realize that if you are a winning player, you are a taker. That’s the name of the game as many of you pointed out. Knowing this, though, I would think it would be worthwhile to find other ways to contribute to the health of the game you play in. One person tweeted at me that he is the biggest winner in his home game, but he gets invited every time because he brings the beer! Oh, and he doesn’t drink!

This is a perfect example of giving up some EV, not being a nit, and contributing to the game in some fashion. In the long run, you will more than make up for the cost of the beer.

My concern for the future of poker is if it continues down the trend of players not thinking about the long term, but just focusing on their immediate EV, you are going to see a further expansion of private games. Private games at the higher stakes are becoming more and more widespread. I don’t think that’s good for poker, but there is not much that can be done to stop that trend.

In the “old days” you come to a casino, and if a seat is open and you have the buy in, you get to sit down and play. This simply isn’t true anymore at the higher stakes. Private games occur in casinos now too, and that shuts out out the young upstart who wants a shot at those games. If the young upstart is a winning player, they will never let him play, unless… he offers something of value to the game. Whether its bringing a weaker player to the game, or maybe, just maybe, being likable enough that people put up with the fact he is a great player and is going to take money out of the game.

Now what if you are a tournament player? How does this affect you? Well, in the example I provided it really doesn’t. You get to be more of a short term thinker, more of a nit, and look to squeeze out small edges with little care for how pleasant the playing experience is. Or do you? It won’t have an affect on you in the short term, yes that’s true, but if you are a high stakes tourney player, for example, the fields are small and losing 3-5 weaker players because they aren’t enjoying the experience anymore, will have a significant impact on your EV long term.

Most every high stakes tourney in the world today offers a shot clock, yet still I have seen first hand, and heard straight from people’s mouth, that they no longer play in them because of the pace of play. Some players, even in the most automatic spots are still taking the full 30 seconds to act. A chess clock/time bank would be a better solution for the future, but that’s for another blog.

What is an automatic spot? An example: a player raises and you call in the BB. The flop is KK3 rainbow and you check call. The turn is a 2. If you take 10-30 seconds to check here, you are truly hurting the game. You are never going to check call this flop and lead the 2 on the turn. You are just always checking, but still, I see players even in spots this automatic burning 25-30 seconds of time.

Since my tweets on the subject, both the first which I admit wasn’t well written, and my follow up that I felt was a lot more fair, I’ve been personally attacked in a couple blogs for my position. I have never taken issue with people disagreeing with my takes, I’m an opinionated person and that’s to be expected.

Even if I think its unfair, I stand responsible for any hate that I get and always try to look at the feedback for opportunities to grow as a person. Sometimes people are genuinely looking to have a civil discussion about poker topics, while other times it just feels more like a smear campaign with ulterior motives. Either way, I’m 100% responsible for anything I say or do. If people choose to take my words out of context, or rephrase my views to fit a narrative, again, even if it isn’t fair, it comes with the territory when you choose to be public with your opinions. We are not owed what we deem to be fair press. We can’t control how people choose to present us. Sometimes they will flat out lie, while others may take liberties and twist your words to fit a narrative.

It doesn’t matter if its fair. If people aren’t getting what I’m saying, it’s up to me to do a better job of communicating my thoughts in the future. I am a flawed human being as we all are to a certain extent, but I am always striving to be a better version of myself and digesting feedback both positive and negative to look for areas where I can be better.

It’s true, I am no longer a grinder as I was for the first 15 years or so of my career. I’ve had success in poker that few will ever achieve, so it would be fair for some to criticize me as being out of touch with the game. It’s fair, but I also don’t believe it to be accurate. I’m constantly in conversation with both pros and recs at all levels, from low stakes, to medium, to high. I think about these issues often as poker has been my passion for half my life now.

I don’t presume to know what my win rate would be at the Aria $2-$5 game, but I do know some grinders who do play in those games regularly. Lastly, you don’t have to accept, or even like my opinions. You can disagree with my stances on issues related to the game. If you do, I would hope that you are open to civil discussion about it. Rather than attack my character, and who I am as a person, I think it would be more worthwhile to discuss why you think my thoughts and ideas are wrong.

I’d love to see a return to “I hate your ideas” rather than “I hate you.” Would do us all some good.

 
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