Rules Guy Tackles Hygiene and Tabling; A Poker Life – Pratyush Buddiga ; Controlling Fear

smelly player
The Rules Guy: How To Conduct Yourself At The Poker Table

The Rules Guy Tackles Poker Table Hygiene and Tabling Cards
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. Have you got a question about how to conduct yourself at the poker table? Email TRG at

Dear The Rules Guy:

How do you handle a situation where you are playing with players with such poor personal hygiene that the game is affected? In the last month, I’ve played poker with a guy who smelled like a dump truck, a player so sick he was constantly coughing and sneezing into his hands (without a handkerchief, naturally), and two players whose breath was so bad, I nearly lost my lunch. Whose job is it to tactfully say something to these players?

— Am I Crazy?

Dear You’re Not Crazy In The Slightest:

Sadly, every live player has experienced some version of this situation. And, at the risk of sounding immodest, The Rules Guy says it’s his job to say something to these players (but not his sole responsibility; see below). So here’s is TRG’s Poker Service Announcement:

Poker is a very welcoming game. If you have money and the desire to play, we want you here. We want newbies. We want wannabes. And we may not want sharks, but we recognize they come with the territory. We want people in the game, including you.

But poker is a social game, and social activities come with a few responsibilities. We ask that you dress and behave like you’re in public (which you are). Wear cleanish clothes. Be clean yourself (bathe!). Wash your hair. Brush your teeth and freshen your breath (often).

We also ask that you be hygienic. If you’re contagious, don’t play. If you do play, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Remember, your hands are touching chips and cards, which are passed around the table (Hand sanitizers or disposable towelettes are worth keeping in your pocket).

And finally, we ask that you eat with some level of decorum. It is beyond disgusting to see someone eat buffalo wings with bare fingers and then use said fingers to pick up cards or handle chips—not to mention unhealthy.

The ideal situation, of course, would be for people to behave in a reasonable way when they come to the card room. TRG realizes this is asking a lot, and his simple appeals to decency and common sense may not be sufficient.

But card room personnel can help; in fact, there is a rule about personal hygiene. Here’s what Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky have to say on the subject in The Rules of Poker: Essentials for Every Game: “Management has the right to establish, modify, and maintain standards for appearance, grooming, and personal hygiene.” (Should TRG ever get the chance to write some rules himself, he’d change the word “right” to “responsibility.”)

It’s the rare floor person who is going to call someone out for inadequate standards of hygiene, but the floor should respond to a complaint from a player. It’s your responsibility (and as poker players, our collective responsibility) to say something to the floor if you find yourself seated next to a reeker, or someone unfamiliar with the effective use of soap, deodorant, or Altoids.

In a decent card room, the floor will investigate and can say something or, in the case of real grossness, send a player home. But the floor will never do either unless a player or two complains (or a dealer or two). So, if it’s bad enough to say something (and by “bad enough,” I mean it interferes with the game and your personal comfort), then speak up.

And for the offenders, one rhetorical question: If you can afford to play poker, can you not afford to bathe and do laundry?

Yup, You’re Being Penalized…

Dear The Rules Guy:

Here’s a question for you.

Three players in the hand—call them #1 (me), #2, and #3. Pot is $100. On the river, it is checked around. Player #2 and I show the same hand; #3 throws his hand face-down. Dealer announces a chop between #2 and me. The dealer divided the chips, and before they were pushed to us, player #2 says, “I want to see #3’s hand.” Dealer stops and turns over #3’s hand—and he shows the best hand!

Here is where the argument started: #3 says, “I have the best hand, so I win the whole pot.” I say, “Wait a minute; call the floor.” The floor comes over; the situation was explained. The floor says #3 has the best hand and should win the whole pot. This follows the rules.

I then state I shouldn’t be punished because of #2’s action. I should split with #3. Since there were two pots, it still follows the rules that the winner doesn’t get a free look thus #2 loses his share. The floor disagreed.

I tried one last time, and say, “Rules are meant to fair to all parties, so what you are saying is I sat there did nothing and I’m being punished by another player.” The floor still stood by his ruling.

— A Reader.

Dear Disgruntled Reader:

You didn’t sign your question with the word “disgruntled,” but you are, indeed, disgruntled. Who can blame you? Still, the floor was absolutely right, and your venom and bile should be directed at player #2. It was his action that resulted in the pot going to its (sort of) rightful owner: the player (#3) with the best hand.

Yes, player #3 should have tabled this hand (there would be no dispute had he done so). But player #2 gave #3’s hand a second life by asking to see it. Note that, if he hadn’t been in the hand, the dealer would have (or should have) mucked the hand by tapping them on the muck before turning them over. But TRG quotes Krieger and Bykofsky again: “If the player who won the pot asks to see the mucked hand, and the mucked hand is actually the superior hand, then the caller’s hand is assumed to be live and the pot will be awarded to that player.”

You are, unfortunately, tarred by the same brush. Remember the cardinal rule of poker: Cards speak. Once player #3’s cards were given a voice, it was impossible to rule in any other way. The best hand won — and you didn’t have it. ?


pratyush buddiga

A Poker Life: Pratyush Buddiga
Buddiga Transitions From Spelling Champ To Poker Pro
by Julio Rodriguez | Published: Dec 14, 2014 | E-mail Author


Pratyush Buddiga

In the last year and a half, Pratyush Buddiga has put himself squarely on the poker map by winning more than $2.3 million, the majority of which has come in three super high roller events featuring some of the world’s best players. After just four years in the game, the 25-year-old from Colorado has gone from fringe online grinder to bona fide tournament poker superstar.

But, no matter what Buddiga accomplishes in poker, it will be hard to escape the label he earned as a 13-year-old by winning the 2002 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Buddiga had seemingly unlimited options after graduating from Duke University in 2011, but chose to pursue a career in poker instead. Luckily for him, the hard work ethic he picked up as a child stayed with him, all but assuring him a promising future in poker.

The Spelling Champ

Buddiga was born in New Zealand and lived there for five years before his family moved to California. Two years later, they settled down in Colorado Springs. Pratyush, along with his brother Akshay, were encouraged to thrive academically from an early age. It wasn’t long before both were entering local spelling competitions.

“My parents were definitely strict in the sense that they valued academics and believed that I shouldn’t be wasting too much of my free time,” he said. “When you are younger, you are more malleable to what your parents want and I definitely got from them the value of hard work. But, as far as the spelling went, by the age of nine, it wasn’t my parents who were pushing me. I was pushing myself. I needed to be the best.”

At the age of 13, his third year competing, Buddiga won at the class level, then regionals. After securing the Rocky Mountain News as his sponsor, he went on to nationals, better known as the Scripps National Spelling Bee where 250 to 300 of the best spellers in the country compete for a $12,000 scholarship. After spelling the word ‘prospicience” correctly, he was crowned the champion.

Just two years later, Akshay nearly secured the family’s second spelling title, falling just short and finishing in second place overall. Akshay infamously fainted while spelling the word ‘alopecoid,’ in a video clip that went viral. The next year, the first-place prize for the ESPN and ABC televised event was increased to $40,000.

“There was always a lot of competition between us,” Buddiga admitted. “It wasn’t unfriendly at any point, since I was older than him and had the advantage of more experience, but he was often my toughest competition in spelling bees. It was a lot of fun battling it out with him when we were younger.”

Some Time In The Spotlight

America’s obsession with the spelling bee championship has since been documented, recreated, and even parodied in movies such as Spellbound, Akeelah and the Bee, and Bad Words. Despite the fact that some of these movies have been dramatized for Hollywood, Buddiga believes they do get one thing correct.

“Those movies are definitely exaggerated for Hollywood, but one thing they usually get right is the amount of pressure on these kids to do well,” he explained. “Even when I was in college, I don’t remember working as hard as I did in those two months after winning state leading up to nationals. I was putting in 11-hour study sessions at a time. It’s incredibly intense.”

After winning, Buddiga was featured on The Today Show, American Morning with Paula Zahn, and a few other morning shows. He even got to meet President George W. Bush. But his favorite experience was getting invited to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live for a comedy segment the show aired about a rapper spelling bee, where he met Snoop Dogg.

“I never really got tired of being known as the kid who won the spelling bee,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d ever want to push my child into something like that, but, as for me, I certainly can’t complain. It was an incredibly valuable experience that keeps paying off even today. No matter what happens the rest of my life, that win will be on my resume and will be a talking point of interest to a lot of people. The last time I was in Macau, Gus Hansen, one of the first poker players I ever saw on television, even broke the ice by asking about the spelling bee.”

Poker Beginnings

After conquering the spelling world, Buddiga spent the rest of his youth continuing his various academic pursuits. It wasn’t until college that he began to take poker seriously.

“I started playing a little bit in high school after watching the World Series of Poker on television,” he recalled. “I just played for fun at first, then I went to Duke University. I had no problems coasting in high school with my classes, but Duke was a different story. For the first two and a half years, I didn’t play any poker just because I was focused on school. Then, the second half of my junior year, I had an easier schedule and started to play some $10 to $20 multi-table tournaments online. Towards the end of college, I was playing bigger, taking shots at $100 tournaments.”

Just over a month before graduating, the poker world was stricken with the effects of Black Friday. Buddiga certainly had other options, but he had already committed to renting a house for the summer in Las Vegas along with some other poker players. Even though the poker landscape had changed dramatically, he figured he would take a chance.

“Just two days before Black Friday, a group of us that included Pius Heinz, Daniel Strelitz, Michael Gagliano, Dave D’Alessandro, and some others booked a house for the WSOP. I had a decent run and cashed a few times, which was a great learning experience for me. Then we topped off the summer with Pius making the November Nine and eventually winning the main event. After that, I really couldn’t envision doing anything else, so I moved out of the country to Malta, and then later Toronto in order to continue playing online and really give poker a shot.”

Poker Tournament Success

Buddiga racked up numerous cashes in his first year on the tournament circuit, including a final table appearance at the European Poker Tour Berlin main event and another deep run at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.

Then, in June of 2013, Buddiga traveled to Macau for the Asia Millions super high roller event that had a converted buy-in of $128,833. He took eighth place for $772,870. In February of 2014, he went to Niagara Falls for the Fallsview Poker Classic, which he won for $219,343.

This summer, he finished tenth in the Summer High Roller Series at Bellagio for another $172,260 and then in August he placed fourth in an EPT Barcelona side event for $127,166. Most recently, Buddiga went back to Macau for the Asia Pacific Poker Tour ACOP high roller, where he banked his largest score to date, $844,660 for third place.

Although he won more money playing in high roller events, Buddiga is most proud of his win in Niagara Falls.

“Unless you win a tournament, you are never really happy,” he said. “In fact, one of my biggest scores, where I finished fourth in Barcelona, was one of the most disappointing moments of my career. That’s why the Fallsview tournament was so satisfying for me, because I want to win so badly.”

Moving Forward

Buddiga spent his early years striving to be the best in the spelling world, but he doesn’t have the same ambition when it comes to poker.

“As a tournament player, I recognize that there is a cap on how good I can be as a poker pro,” he admitted. “No matter how good I get at tournaments, I’ll never be better at poker than the best cash game players, guys like Doug Polk, for example. A lot of tournament players don’t understand just how much better these cash guys are. They make the transition to tournaments way easier than we do to cash games, so I’m definitely not under any illusion that I’ll be one of the top poker players in the world. That being said, cash games, at least at the highest levels, are really dying out. The top players can’t even find consistent action. Tournaments are where the money is at these days.”

Buddiga is content to avoid high-stakes cash games and keep grinding tournaments for the time being, but no one can accuse him of taking it easy. He still shows the same kind of dedication to improving as a poker player as he did all those years ago while tearing through the dictionary.

“I probably spend more days studying poker than playing poker. That’s the benefit of all those hours I put into spelling as a kid. Now, I have no problem putting in the work. I’m confident I’ll be able to continue putting up results and growing as a player.” ?


scared poker

Controlling fear a huge part of winning poker
by Irene Edith
“Fear can make you fold winners” says Dr. Schoonmaker

A while back, my favorite poker psychologist, Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, wrote a memorable column for another publication comparing limit and no-limit games.

Psychology and deception play the key roles in no-limit games; whereas, the game and starting hand selection are essential in limit games. He discussed several psychological traits, including risk tolerance and fear – playing scared poker.

There is an old saying that was coined in the 1940s: “Scared money never wins.”

How many of us have learned this the hard way? It applies to life experiences as well as the game of poker.

From the psychological standpoint, scared players are so timid they make serious mistakes.

“Fear can make you fold winners, check when you should bet, call when you should raise, or make too small a bet or raise,” Dr. Schoonmaker says. “What’s more,” he adds, “you may be so afraid of a raise or a drawout that you give away free cards.”

Had you bet, your opponent probably would have folded. Instead, with the free card, he draws one of his few outs and beats your hand; or, your failure to bet may invite an opponent to bluff.

Fear can also lead to over-protecting your hand; i.e., betting too much, especially in no-limit games. I agree.

First of all, when you hold a hand that will win, say, 80% of the time, it’s foolish to bet so high that all of your opponents muck their hands. You will miss out on lots of chips that should have gone into your stacks. The odds were with you. Have confidence; don’t play scared.

On the other hand, protecting your middle two-pair on the flop often makes perfectly good sense. The secret then, is knowing when and how much to bet or raise; and then doing it, confident you have made the best decision under the circumstances.

When to bet/raise? There are many perceived outs available that would help an opponent to beat you. Obviously, any pairs – no matter how high – and two-pair hands need lots of protection. Often, you are a favorite over a single opponent who is drawing to make his hand, but two or more such opponents spell danger. That calls for respect of your opponents, not playing scared.

Bet, raise, or check? You must not be scared in making that decision. Know your opponents well, and study the board. And, finally, use your best judgment. For example, if an opponent could have six or more outs, it’s best to make him pay to see the next card – or fold.

On the other hand, if you hold a big hand such as top set, your best play is to encourage callers to help build “your” pot. Remember, our goal is to win more chips rather than hands. Trapping (playing your made hand in such a way as to conceal its strength) is a viable tactic in such cases.

Don’t play scared when doing so. Check (in limit games) or under bet (in no-limit games); then, your opponents have no idea of the strength of your hand. They may even be convinced you have a drawing hand that has yet to connect. It may also persuade your opponent to bluff at you. Then, you can raise right back at him, gaining a huge pot.

For no-limit players or those aspiring to play that game, Dr. Schoonmaker offers salient advice: “If the fear of going broke will make you misplay your hands, play limit poker or in no-limit games that are small enough to keep your fears under control.”

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