Let It Go – Please ; Start Your Year Correctly

let it go

The Rules Guy: Learning To Let It Go

The Rules Guy Explains Why You Just Need To Move On To The Next Hand

by Card Player News Team

Most players learn poker’s explicit rules pretty quickly: the “one-chip rule,” for example, or “verbal declarations are binding.” But not everyone seems to have digested the game’s vast book of unwritten rules, admonitions like “don’t berate other players (particularly bad ones)” or “say ‘nice hand’ even when you mean something entirely different.”

Enter “The Rules Guy.” TRG believes that civility and sportsmanship are never wrong, and that bad behavior (even when you’re simply trying to get an edge) is bad for the game. What’s wrong? What’s right? What’s an angle? Got a question about how to behave at the poker table (or a comment about a column)? Email TRG at editor@cardplayer.com.

Rule #1 in Poker: S%@t Happens… Move On

Dear The Rules Guy:

I was on the button in a $2-3 blind no-limit hold’em game. On my right in seat 6 was an arrogant, self-absorbed player who had twice been warned by previous dealers not to hide his hole cards. (He was constantly covering his cards with his hands.) Everyone limped to me, and I raised to $20 while holding QSpade Suit JSpade Suit. The big blind (BB), under the gun (UTG), and seat 6 called.

On a flop of JHeart, 5Spade, 3Spade, all three checked. With top pair and a flush draw, I bet $45, and was called by BB and UTG. Again, seat 6 was covering his cards and the knew dealer forgot about him. She burned a card and started to flip over the turn card when seat 6 mucked his cards face up with the exposed cards landing on top of the flop. However, instead of stopping the action and mucking his cards, she continued and placed the QClub on the turn. I now had top two pair with my flush draw. The dealer mucked seat 6’s exposed cards but announced that since he technically still had a hand when she exposed the turn card, she would have to replace the queen with another card.

Two gentlemen not in the hand vigorously argued that since the queen had not been exposed prior to seat 6 expressing his desire to muck his hand, the turn card should stand. My two opponents in the hand obviously were not helped by the queen and argued just as vociferously that a replacement card – by rule – was required. The floor was summoned and since this was not a clear case of the dealer “burning and turning” while a player yet to act still held cards, a supervisor was summoned.

One of the players arguing in favor of allowing the queen to play made – I felt – the most succinct point: “The integrity of this hand was that the QClub was meant to be the turn card. The inappropriate action of seat 6 should not change that. His intent was to surrender his hand, and he did so before seeing the turn card. If the dealer had killed seat 6’s hand at the time they were mucked, we would not be having this discussion.” However, after much debate, the supervisor declared that a replacement card was the correct action. Naturally, a five arrived on the turn and the big blind with A-5 made trips, and I did not improve on the river. I ended up losing a nice pot. Your thoughts, please.

— D. in Anaheim

Dear D in Anaheim:

The Rules Guy doesn’t normally take on questions that involve the precise parsing of the rules of the game. TRG’s focus is on the intersection of rules and behavior at the table, with an emphasis on behavior because TRG believes that promoting good (i.e., respectful, civil) behavior is good for the game and good for its players.

So TRG approaches your question not in terms of making some definitive ruling on what should have happened but in terms of why you should not care about this hand to the extent of writing at such length and in such detail about it.

For the record: (1) Seat 6 was very clearly wrong. (2) The dealer was probably wrong, and could have handled it differently. (3) The floor and supervisor made a reasonable decision based on what the dealer had done. Bottom line, you lost a pot you probably should have won.

But the only categorical wrong was committed by seat 6. Make that “wrongs” with an s: His inability to adhere to one of the basic procedural rules of poker – to keep your cards visible at all time – is inexcusable, as was his not acting in a timely way after the flop bet, then mucking out of turn during the deal. Seat 6 was childish, disruptive, and almost intolerably stupid.

TRG isn’t writing about this because of the gross injustice of seat 6. No, TRG is writing because he wants you, D from Anaheim, and players like you (who tend to be decent, thoughtful, and caring and who tend to exhibit a great deal of integrity) to let crap like this go.

Point #1: Poker is a lifelong game. Which means that one hand is close to meaningless – particularly a garden-variety low-stakes hand like yours. The pot contained $220 by TRG’s reckoning, minus the rake; that’s a decent pot, but if you can afford to play that game, $220 isn’t even remotely important money.

Let it go.

Point 2: Poker isn’t perfectly executed at the procedural level – which puts it on a par with any other game or activity that involves humans and judgment (humans + judgment = imperfection). Refs and umps and line judges and course officials blow calls all the time. When they do, bad things happen to those on one side of the call (and good things happen to those on the other side). Do the ones on the losing end deserve this fate? Nope. Do the ones on the winning side deserve it? Nope. Is that the way life is? Absolutely.

Let it go.

Point #3: As Buddha probably didn’t say (but Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami did): “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

You’re a poker player. That means you need to recognize that bad things happen to good players and good people. (“Pain is inevitable.”) Many players get that but fail to get the second component, how you respond is up to you and within your control. (“Suffering is optional.”) You no doubt experienced anger, frustration, and injustice when you lost this hand, so much so that you took the time to write, with great attention to detail and a sense of righteousness, to The Rules Guy. TRG does thank you for the effort and the fodder for a column, but you should…

Let it go.

Point #4: Poker is frustrating but if it’s a source of lasting pain, you will not play optimally. When you can let this kind of outcome go, your game is automatically elevated. A delta bravo at the table screws up the deal and you lose a hand. Move on to the next one. A dealer deals you one ace down and then, the second card flips face up. (Does TRG even need to specify the rank of second card?) Move on to the next hand. Or your opponent (not nemesis, not villain, your opponent) catches a one-outer on the river and felts you. Move on to the next session.

Let it go.

When you can accept the pain, and can let it go, without suffering, without righteous indignation, without clinging to the hurt and disappointment for days on end, you will play better. And you will be happier.

TRG does appreciate the question, D, and your attention to detail. But the lesson here is not to make the game perfect, (there is only karmic retribution in poker) but to embrace its imperfections, frustration, and pain.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”



Starting Off Your New Poker Year Correctly

By Earl Burton

Whether you are a professional or just a casual player, the start of a new year wipes the slate clean for everyone involved in poker. Everyone’s reset back to zero as to winnings, there’s a fresh array of tournaments and cash games waiting (online or live) and the zeal to play the game has been reborn. With this in mind, here are a few suggestions to get your 2014 poker year off to a great start.

Set Your Goals

As with any endeavor, it is always important to set goals to aspire to. Depending on your depth of involvement with poker, those goals can be different for the recreational player or the embedded table grinder. Do you want to play more tournaments? Do you want to make a certain amount each month playing the game? Do you want to learn a new discipline of poker? These are all things that have to be considered.

Pull out a piece of paper (or a Word document) and put down five things that you would like to achieve over the next 12 months. Remember to not set the goals too low or too high; there is nothing that disappoints someone more than easily blasting through a list of achievements or, on the other hand, not reaching said goals. This is something that will take a great deal of honesty out of a person and they have to know their mindsets and playing expectations.

Myself, for example, I would like to play 12 tournaments this year. Doesn’t matter the buy-in, where it is or what game, just 12 events. I would like to also finish off a poker book that I am working on. I would like to show a profit for the year overall in both tournaments and cash games and…well, you get the point. Set these goals, put the document aside and look back at them on occasion through the year. If you knock off your list (or even knock off a couple of items), add in a new goal so that you always have five set goals to complete by December.

Erase the Slate

One of the most important things a poker player can do is have an accurate statistical Excel sheet (or a balance book) for their poker performance. This would encompass how much you’ve spent, what you’ve taken in and other “notes” that you make on your game throughout the year. Every poker player who is worth something has this system to track their performance and, if you haven’t already done so, it is important to set one up.

There are some programs online that will provide you with a method for tracking your monetary performance through the year, but it is easy to set one up yourself. Use an Excel spreadsheet and ACCURATELY track your buy-ins, cash outs and other statistics each time you play. The reason for the emphasis is that some players will even lie to themselves; they’ll put down their winning sessions but, disgusted by losing, those will be forgotten. Some players will say they are “winners” when, if they accurately put all of their performances on paper, they would see they are actually losing money at the game.

Do this throughout the year and you will see which side of the fence you are on.

Stimulate the Mind

Set up a way that, even if you aren’t playing poker, that you still are thinking about the game and improving yourself. Although the market has dwindled over the past few years, there are still some excellent poker books out there that might help you in this endeavor (we’ll be looking at some of those as January continues). You can also use poker computer games to challenge your skills.

This may sound a bit geeky, but I will sometimes just sit and deal out a nine-handed Texas Hold’em game by myself. I will look at each of the cards and determine what action the imaginary player would take in each position, then deal out the flop, turn and (sometimes) river as the hand plays out. If that’s a bit much, just deal out one or two sets of hole cards, throw up a flop and do the mental exercises (how many outs, chances of improving the hand, etc.) that you would do on the felt.

Have Something OTHER Than Poker

This is perhaps the biggest thing that poker players don’t do. When they are away from the tables, it is important to have something other than poker on your mind. Read a novel, go to a concert, interact with family and friends…these are all good suggestions for the “balanced” life that is necessary for success in any endeavor. While poker is great, there are other things in life that can be better and it is important to not forget those.

Using these thoughts, you might set yourself up to be well-rounded, rested and prepared for what the 2014 poker year throws at you and the success that it might bring! What would be some of your suggestions for starting off the “new” poker year correctly?

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