Turning the tail on Ignoramous

Posted by in Poker

A recent post by Shelly led me to want to comment, but my comment was in danger of becoming so long, that it made sense to turn it into a post of my own. So Shelly – thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

In it she writes about a recent SNG in which a player felt the need to be, quite frankly, an ass, and make comments about her play. Not outright comments, mind you – more subtle ones – just a simple “LOL” with no follow-up explanation. (All the better for the mind-fuck really).

In her post Shelly writes:

“But – it made me think: what is it about online poker that makes people think it’s OK to ridicule other people’s play?” “Life is all safe and cozy behind an avatar, bad ass screen name, and the glow of the computer monitor.”

Shelly dear, you just answered your own question. That’s one of the great things about the internet. It brings us back to the basest of our human selves. You only need to take a glance around the blogosphere to see that. Hidden behind the safety net of “just words on a screen”, we’re free to be whoever we want to be – and for some of us that can be the real us, opening up to complete strangers in ways we could never open up to even our closest friends and family members. For instance, as far as my mother knows, I’ve never lost a penny playing poker. You all however know the cold hard truth. Friendships formed, love found – it can be a beautiful thing.

Of course, every rose has its thorn and there is a dark side too. Whereas some of us use this medium to express our true selves, many others use it to express their darker sides, or to just “try on” a dark side that isn’t normally there. I’ll never forget one night when I was just starting out, playing a play chip game at Stars, when a couple of guys took it upon themselves to harass this one woman at the table. They literally degraded to the point of death threats. Obviously PS support was alerted, but still, you have to wonder – were they really like this in real life? You have to figure that a certain amount of social Darwinism would have weeded these boys out at some point, if they truly were the type to be going around making death threats to random people just because it was “fun”. But then again, perhaps that explained why they were online late at night on a weekend playing at a play chip table – hard to get a date when you’re a social deviant.

What really struck me in Shelly’s post was her reaction to the player’s comment. Again, such a simple little comment. But it had such a powerful effect. Why?

She wrote

“Here’s the second question you can answer for me – am I being too sensitive in thinking it’s rude to berate people’s plays in the online chat?”

I don’t think any of us would advocate berating the plays of other people. Occasional trash talking…maybe. The power of implied tilt odds can’t be denied. After all, we can’t judge too much – we are a group of people that worships 7-2 off.

I think what makes us so sensitive is the feeling we get when some random player across the virtual felt has the audacity to critique our play. It’s OUR play, and we see ourselves as being on a certain level as a player. So when someone comes along to challenge that, we immediately go into defense mode. And really – who the hell are they? You want to reach across the table and grab them by the collar and demand a rundown of their credentials. Have they written a book? Did anyone buy it? Do they have a blog? Does anyone read it? If an asshole makes a comment at a full table and everyone has the chat disabled, does he continue typing just to see his words on the screen?

We go into defense mode when challenged by each other too, but usually (hopefully) we handle it better. Either way, it’s a challenge to our perceptions of ourselves that plants a seed of doubt, and in some cases can throw a player off completely. These challenges are good though. You can never see the game from any other eyes unless you ask questions or allow yourself to be occasionally told “Hey, that was really stupid.” You want the challenge to come from a friend or mentor, as they’ll be there to reassure you that you’re on the right track, or guide you to the right one if you’re not. But are they there to see every hand you play? Will they be there to see all the bad moments and call you on them?

Learning to love the jerks

That’s where the jerks can come in. The vast majority of us don’t have the luxury of a teacher to pour over our hand histories after every session. When you review your play in Tracker, you don’t review all 200+ hands – you just look at the ones that made/cost you the most. But what about the ones that were marginal this time? What about the ones that have hidden in them a real lesson? Even these jerks at the tables can be helpful for having these light bulb moments – plays that you think are absolutely right to make, you go back to later and analyze them because someone at the table said something…and you find out that in fact you didn’t have the exact odds to draw, that maybe you should have pushed a little harder/less. Was the remark from the peanut gallery needed? Of course not. Did they end up doing you a favor in the long run? Yes. Any lesson you take away is a benefit, no matter how you got to it.

Don’t put too much into what they say – they are still jerks after all. And most of the time ignorant ones at that. But sometimes, perhaps they’re acting as angels from the Poker Gods, sent to jolt us out of our comfort zones so we’ll take a closer look at how we’re really playing.

I for one am truly grateful for not only every one of you reading, but for those whom I’ve had the opportunity to talk with; to be told when some play was stupid and who have made me re-think my own rules about the game. I find myself mentorless again so I truly value any and all feedback I can get.

And we all should, even if it comes in the form of a snide remark from some chicken hiding behind the comfort of his computer screen. Anything that causes us to reflect on ourselves and our play is a good thing.

And if we make note of his screen name, share it with our blogger friends, and hunt him down later and take all his money, well – that’s okay too.