Every poker table is a little different. I’ve played in Chile, Ecuador, Australia, and now in Spain. I’m used to playing in Las Vegas, where the tables sometimes get a little animated, but the players are usually experienced and don’t get too upset unless some jerk insists on violating the implicit etiquette.
I had a rather unique experience the other night at the Gran Casino of Murcia, Spain, however. I’m not exactly sure what happened, although I have my suspicions. Let’s just say that the floor manager warned the table several times about how loud it was getting. When that did no good, he came over, told the dealer to get up, and he put the table on a ten minute “time out.” When I looked at him incredulously, he apologized to me and told me he’d find me a seat at another table if I wanted to wait for a while.
I just told him that I’d be back tomorrow.
Here’s what happened, in a nutshell.
The previous night, I’d played until closing time: 4 a.m. The players at the table changed rarely, so I’d been playing with many of the same players for hours. I was going well, and was up a few hundred Euros, which was very good for the size of the game. Near the end of the night the floor manager suggested that what we were playing was more like a home game. “The same people play every night. Sometimes one player wins; the other times, another player wins. It all evens out.”
Now, as someone who likes to play, but especially likes to play to win, this was good news to me. Because, most of the players at the table were really bad players, who, while they might say they were trying to win, they sure had no idea how to go about it. That, of course, is what makes a really good table for someone like me. I play tight. I press my advantages. I don’t play crappy cards. And I don’t pay to draw to long shots. That’s how you win a game like that.
But the next night was different. Instead of a table full of people of all ages, including some as old as I, there was a table of all young males–most of which seem to have learned everything they know about poker from watching tournaments on TV. There was a lot of bluster, and, very strange to me, a lot of post hand analysis along the lines of: “Would you have folded if I’d bet X?” and “I knew you had the straight, but I was drawing to the flush.” Or, “I can’t believe you played that crap.”
This is the sort of table talk I never participate in. My thinking is, “Why would I want to tell you what I’m thinking at the poker table?” and, “I don’t give free lessons, anyway.”
I was rolling along, winning the hands I should, and folding most of the ones I shouldn’t. One thing about bad players is that they value their hands way too much. Here’s a free lesson for you guys, if you can read this, which you probably can’t because it’s in English, but anyway…”A pair almost never wins a showdown in Texas Hold’em.” Think about it: there are ten guys who start the hand. What are the chances the best hand will be a pair, even if it is a pair of Aces? Moreover, if your kicker is a 6, why are you surprised to lose when the other idiot was playing A-7?”
But there was a whole lot of this sort of play, and a whole lot of card throwing and yelling the Spanish equivalent of “motherfucker” when a pair didn’t hold up. That went along with a whole lot of the Spanish equivalent of “Take that, motherfucker” when it did hold up or the lucky son of a bitch made his inside straight on the river. As the taciturn foreigner at the table, I was a little taken aback to be insulted like that when I lost a hand, when all I ever did when I won was to turn over my cards and rake in the chips.
But, what I think was going on, other than the usual Spanish macho bullshit, was that most of the guys at the table were out of work and that they were playing, literally, for their lives.
You could see it in the way many of them played. The game was 1-2€ blinds, and in the States, the typical buy-in for a game like that would be 200-300€ (dollars.) But these guys were mostly buying in for the minimum: 50€. And if they lost that, they’d put out maybe another 50€, and sometimes only 20€. Thus, their poker strategy went something like this: they’d wait til they got a pair or two high cards and go all in and hope to win. When they didn’t, which was usual, they’d throw the aforementioned tantrums. They should have been playing the slots, with strategy like that.
But when our “time out” was called, even though I was winning, I didn’t stick around for for play to resume, or to be moved to another table. I do like to win, but when it’s that unpleasant, it’s just not worth it.
Maybe the floor man was right to give a time out. What he should have done though was eject a couple of players. (I’d also suggest raising the buy-in and re-buy minimums to at least 100€, to keep out the broke and desperate.) That would have made the game a lot more pleasant for all, and would have given his casino at least the semblance of professionalism that–all the talk of a home game atmosphere aside–it sorely needed.