Life lessons learned through poker?

This past weekend I was blessed with a break. I was allowed to take off the poker dealer shoes and put on the ever so cherished shoes of the poker player. A good friend of mine is due to be married, so it would only be right if a few of us took him to Las Vegas for the once in life time bachelor party! Now I know what you’re all thinking and stop it! My idea of Las Vegas is different than yours, but then again, I’m a poker player. I could be bluffing here. There is a reason I never show my cards…

A mutual friend and I decided that our gift to him would be the gift of poker. Two days of poker can offer an amazing opportunity to learn about life.  Considering the fact that there are long stretches where the best hand you see is 9-7 off suite, there’s generally plenty of time to ponder on your past experiences and possible future outcomes. So take advantage of that time and learn a few things!

Our first stop was the Aria. They offer a daily $125 No Limit tournament there, which seemed to the perfect tournament to break the ice for the weekend. While we were playing, I noticed something. Take note that there are a lot of common courtesies in poker, some well known and some that go unnoticed. Your everyday player should be well versed in the majority of them, but the weekend warriors are the ones who never learn these, and as it appears, really don’t care in the first place. After watching a number people get busted, and go on with whatever the rest of their day had to offer them, I was amazed to see that one of these courtesies was being respectfully practiced. I noticed that no one apologized for anything at the poker table. Were all these players being rude?  No, not really. As a human being, we’re all blessed with compassion. It’s in our nature to be apologetic when we see loss, we feel sorry for people when we see them experiencing sorrow. In the poker world it’s 100% the opposite. Saying your sorry when you knock a player out will spark hatred from some of nicest people in the world. Watching as all these players were graciously thanked for playing was so unheard of I almost slapped myself to wake up from this dream. I’m mean, not everyone went out with a smile on their face, but I don’t remember seeing one person upset at the other person for knocking them out. Lots of hand shakes were exchanged and there was plenty of encouragement for the next game. I was absolutely amazed… I had finally found the poker room that exemplified, in my opinion, what poker should be.

Years ago while playing in an afternoon tournament over at The Orleans Casino I watched one of the most hilarious, yet horrifying situations unfold. We were nearing the end of the tournament with roughly 2 tables left. We were 2 or 3 players from the bubble (the bubble is the last player out before people start getting paid) and the tension was building in the room. From the far corner of the room I remember hearing Skip, the floor guy, yell “Alright dealers, we will now play hand for hand. Once you’ve completed the hand you are on, stand up. If a player goes out please notify us at once!”
Sitting across the table from me was Paulette. One of the sweetest little old ladies I’ve ever met. Watching her face light up as she stacked chips is one of my fondest poker memories. It was unfortunate to notice she was the short stack at this table and would be all in on the next hand as it was her big blind. Silently wishing her good luck as I tapped the table, the dealer dealt the cards. Not wanting to be the one, I didn’t even look at my cards and I folded. Joe, the tables chip leader was to my left, went all in over the top. This was a little excessive since there were only 2 people left to act, and neither of them had chip stacks to worry about. The other players in the hand folded. When the dealer asked them to turn their cards over. I was excited to see that Paulette had bean dealt A-A! Then Joe showed 2-3 of clubs… First and foremost, this is like slapping your grandmother in the face. Why on Earth would you make that move with those cards… As luck would have it, the Aces went down as the flop gave 3 more clubs and no additional help on the turn and river. Joe was excited, he’d gotten us all to the money! Through his excitement he yelled across the room, “Congratulations everyone, and you’re welcome! I got you all to the money!” Not paying any attention to the kind little Paulette as she boards her scooter to leave, he comments to the table, “Sorry ’bout her luck, but it was my time to shine!” Now no one likes a braggart at the table, especially one who plays horrible poker, but this guy had just made a target out of himself. As he stacked his chip I heard a sound. It sounded like someone had broken a walnut with a nut cracker. I wasn’t the only one to hear this sound, everyone at our table heard it too. As if in sync we all looked over Joe’s should to see little Paulette driving her scooter off. Right behind her on the ground was Joe’s glasses. Crunched up and run over… I grinned a bit at first as he reacted in anger. Then the most amazing thing happened. Little Paulette exclaimed “Sorry ’bout your luck” and flipped the bird as she drove off into the sunset. At this point in my life I’d never seen anything quit like this… I was floored. Then a thought occurred to me. I stood up and started clapping. The rest of the room, excluding Joe, followed suit and applauded her monumental exit.

There are two lessons to learn here… First, respect your elders. They’ve been there thousands of times before you, and did it better than you. Second, being the braggart at the table gains you nothing. You will get no where bragging. The respect you’re seeking will eventually lead to your poker demise. 

In the end, had he just kept his head down and moved on to the next hand, this spectical would have been a moot point. His actions set him up for the eventual kick to the junk. After the re-draw he was seated next to Alfred, Paulette’s husband. Two hands later Alfred took all of Joes chips and respectfully said “Thanks for playing”. 

Respect is earned. Both in life and in poker. If you want people to respect your raises, your chip stack, your name. Present a respectful product that people will want to respect and you’ll earn it in due course. 

This past weekend at the Aria has renewed my hope for poker. Where there were 140 people knocked out of the tournament there always seemed to be voices for future encouragement. Now I know I might be out on a cliff here, but if we all stepped out of the box to encourage others, karma might rear her huge head and help us out a bit… Being respected in the poker world is a lot harder then being respected anywhere else. Your face will be remembered long before your name is. Leave people with a great memory of your face, and the long road to gaining the respect of your peers will follow.

Thanks for reading! And may you pull many pots in your direction!

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