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Mind Your P's and Q's

14 July 2006

I witnessed something the other day at a poker table that absolutely appalled me. A player had been losing consistently and went "on tilt" and started steaming. Now, I've seen this happen before, but this gentleman went to the extreme. Several times he threw his cards into the muck with such force that twice they went off the table. That plus his cursing earned him the disdain of his peers and a severe reprimand from the poker room manager.

What could have caused this display of temper besides just losing? Actually, nothing that doesn't usually happen in the course of a game. Okay, let me give you one example. K.R., the player to the right of aforesaid gentleman, was the big blind and played his starting hand, an unsuited 7/2, which is one of the worst possible hands to play. But because he was the big blind, K.R. had already posted a live bet, and, like most poker players in the blind would do, he played his cards because the bet hadn't been raised.

And most players know to beware of other players in the blind for that same reason - they're likely to play anything. Sure enough, the flop brought a pair of 7s, and that meant that K.R. now had trips. I can't remember what the turn and river cards were or even what Mr. In-Need-of-an-Anger-Management-Class held in his hand. I just remember he went ballistic when he discovered that he had lost to an unsuited 7/2.

Trust me; bad beats happen. You start with only high cards and big pairs and you get beat on the flop or maybe not until the very last community card on the river. It hurts. So, if even a newbie like myself knows this, why would an obviously knowledgeable and experienced player make himself appear so inexperienced? Go figure.

If it happens to you, you might as well go ahead and mutter "good hand" even though you don't mean it; it'll help dissipate some of that steam coming out of your ears.

While we're on this subject, I thought I'd just run through a list of table manners. We just discussed the first one: don't be a sore loser. The rules that follow are designed to help the game run smoothly and quickly.

No acting out of turn. In poker, one player at a time calls, bets, raises or folds. After the player to your right acts, then it's your turn. Acting out of turn gives an unfair advantage to another player over remaining opponents. For example, if you raise out of turn, a player who was about to call may now want to fold. Or if you fold out of turn, the player on your right no longer has to worry about your raising.

No "splashing" the pot. The dealer and other players need to see that your bet is correct. If you throw your chips into the pot, then the dealer may have to stop the play and count down the pot to determine if it's correct. Simply place your bet in front of you, and the dealer will scoop it to the center of the table.

No "string" raises or bets. A string bet or raise happens when a player places less than the full bet or raise in the pot and goes back to his stack of chips to get more. You should either put the full amount of chips in at one time or announce the bet amount. If you're going to raise, then simply say, "Raise." If you don't then your raise won't be honored.

There are other rules, of course, like keep your cards on the table; don't discuss the board cards during play; protect your cards; and tip the dealer. Observing all the above rules seems like second nature to most poker players, but we all remember the time when we were so green that violating rules seemed more the norm.

That's why inexperienced players are tolerated for a little while if they're making a sincere effort to comply.

But, above all, don't lose your temper! Until next week, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com