Sunday, March 12, 2006
A couple months back I’m having dinner with Gene, a friend of the family, and obviously I get peppered with some poker questions. Gene is not really a player but he does ask an astute question. With these new tournament fields being as large as they are, he says, you probably are not going to sit down with many people you know at all. So if that’s the case then how can you cater your game to someone’s style of play if you know absolutely nothing about them or how they play?
I allowed that he had a point. It is very different than even a couple years ago when the band of nomads traveling from tournament to tournament wasn’t quite so large. I remember TJ writing about what an advantage he had because he could remember every player he’s ever played with and how they played. Still though, I explained to Gene, you never know absolutely nothing about the people you see. The second someone sits down at your table they are generally drenched with information of some sort or another. What they’re wearing, who they’re talking to, how they hold themself, it all helps to give some sense of how they might play.
For instance, if you are sitting down to the first day of the 2006 World Series of Poker and the guy next to you is wearing a souvenir 2006 World Series of Poker shirt, 2006 WSOP jacket, 2006 WSOP baseball cap and has a plastic WSOP card protector, there’s a decent possibility that he may not be a stone cold 20 year veteran of the series. (Of course if you sit down to a similarly attired player 6 or more weeks into the series it may have less to do with the fact that he’s a star struck 1st year player and more to do with the possibility that this guy just hasn’t left the casino in 40 days and is too lazy to do laundry.) Likewise, if you sit down and the guy to your left spends 5 minutes dissecting a hand he played last night in a home game with Lee Watkinson this is also going to give you some insight about what level of game he plays. Obviously these are not things that will tell you the full story of how someone plays, but they do give you a starting point to think of their game.
This conversation that I had a few months ago, on the information that players wear, was at the forefront of my mind last night. You see I missed something about an opponent at my table that may have been more informative than any tell I’ve ever run across before, and more obvious than any tell I’ll ever run across again. Having played the poker circuit off and on for a couple years I pride myself on being able to size up an opponent fairly quickly. The more subtle cues may occasionally elude me but I have no trouble catching the obvious stuff. Or so I thought.
So I’m playing a single table satellite last night and across the table from me is a young woman, cute, short hair, spaghetti string top revealing a somewhat tattooed left shoulder. I play with her for about 35 minutes or so until she calls all-in on the river with no pair/jack high and, not surprisingly, gets knocked out. Well, at this point she gets up from the table and being the Clouseauesque master of observation that I am I just then notice the one thing about her that probably would have told me everything I might ever need to know about her game. As she walks away from the table and towards the bathroom, what I so keenly observe is that the woman just happens to not be wearing pants. Yep, no jopke, staring right back at me, nothing but bare ass. When I see this, the all in call with jack high starts to make a little more sense.
I had a friend who once used the phrase "it was like playing in a dealer’s game" i.e. that it was a game where all the players were professional poker dealers, i.e. that it was supposed to be a soft game. See, the general belief is that if a poker dealer were a good enough player then they wouldn’t have to deal to make a living. Therefore poker dealers are lousy players. Beyond just being condescending this is a characterization that just isn’t true. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrazi, Mike Matasow, Robert Hanley, Scotty Nguyen, a number of the best players in the world were all once dealers. In fact to make such a broad generalization about any diverse group of players is obviously dangerous. With all that in mind though I will still give you one piece of infallible advice. If anyone ever offers you the opportunity to play in a high stakes strippers’ game then by all means run, don’t walk, to the nearest pawn shop and hock whatever you have to to buy in, strippers not generally being know for their keen understanding of implied pot odds.
Now, why am I playing poker with a stripper? Well, that has to do with something called (the oddly apostrophied) Bar Poker Pro’s.
Having slogged from sterile hotel to hotel, grinding out this "easy living" for so long I sometimes forget that a lot of people actually like to play poker. They actually do it not for the rent but rather for some kind of fun. And that’s the idea behind http://www.barpokerpros.com/ a business that offers poker as entertainment. Instead of hiring a band or a DJ to get people into a bar or restaurant you hire a poker game. The Bar Poker people bring a table and a dealer and they advertise for a game. People who might not have frequented your establishment come by to play poker and while they’re there they of course might buy a few beers, order a burger, whatever. Playing is free. You get league points for how high you finish and at the end of the season there is a championship for the people with the highest point totals. Then the winner of the end of the season tournament gets a WSOP seat.
They run these little games throughout South Florida, in various bars and restaurants. Next week the game closest to my father is at a fancy steak house. This week however the closest game happened to be at a rustic little pub by the name of Bada Bing. Now I was not familiar with the Bada Bing chain before this and I’m not even sure if it is a chain. For all I know it may just be an unrelated group of bars that haven’t gotten around to suing each other for having the same name. I didn’t ask.
Anyway, I pull up to the Bada Bing with my father and the first thing that I notice about the decor is what looks to be a homeless man sleeping in front of the building. Upon closer inspection though I see that said man is not moving and the police tape cordoning him off would seem to imply that the gentleman is not sleeping so much as dead. Finally though under closer closer inspection I realize that said man is not only not alive but is actually not even a man. It’s actually just a mannequin dressed up to look like a dead guy.
See the Bada Bing is not only a nudie bar but a nudie theme bar, the theme being gangsters chic. You walk in and all the TVs are playing old gangster movies, the VIP room is called the Godfather Suite, etc, etc. Of course my favorite decorative touch was not gangster specific. It was in the bathroom where someone had taken the time to take a red cloth napkin and place it on top of the toilet. For some reason this just really impressed me. I mean I’m lazy. I know lazy when I see it. Sometimes though I find myself impressed by a sheer artistry of sloth and it sticks with me. It was obvious that someone cared enough to think "what might make this space more inviting?" They might have thought about maybe putting plants in there or repainting it or even just occasionally mopping it, but no. Out of all the things that could improve the aesthetics of a dank and dingy space someone said "yep, red napkin, that’s definitively the way to go. Problem solved," and walked away.
Of course I don’t imagine that environmental aesthetics are really what draw most people into strip clubs. It’s all about the ladies, which Bada Bing had plenty of. In fact when we arrived at around 8 o’clock there had to be more performers than patrons. And to make matters worse the six or so patrons that were there were poker players. As the evening went on the place filled up a little more but at first it was just six patrons and two off duty strippers sitting at a poker table.
This of course didn’t turn out to be too profitable for the working strippers since poker players can be a little single minded during a game. When you’re in a hand, once the flop comes out, everything outside of the game temporarily goes blank and ceases to exist. I’ve long believed that a monkey and a one armed midget could be having a knife fight and once that flop comes out not an eye would be on them. While I haven’t had the chance to test this particular hypothesis yet, I can give you one piece of empirically proven truth, cards do seem to trump boobs. Two feet in front of our table: nubile young womany parts; Two feet to the side of our table: another stage with another woman jiggling her junk. Yet not once did I see a player even look up from the game much less miss a hand due to the nudeness around them. Poker players are strange people.
And the really weird thing was that everyone seemed to be having fun, even without playing for cash. I mean no one was losing grotesque amounts of money and yet everyone was still smiling. Strange people indeed.