"Swimming With The Sharks: Be Bigger Than Your Old Habits"
February 26, 2009
From the TV Show, Bat Masterson:
William Barclay Masterson: I've got important business in Cheyenne with three of its richest citizens and poorest poker players.
Have you ever heard that song by the Whitlams called 'Royal In The Afternoon'? Great song. I want to point out the lyrics of the chorus, which goes: "We can be bigger than my old habits – over my dead body, but still." I really love that line. The reason why I mention it is because it is the focal point of my column today. No matter where you are, there will always be someone with deep pockets and no ability to play.
All great poker players have that story of the time they played against some rich guy/girl and took their money. We’ve seen wealthy businessmen like Jerry Buss and Antonio Salorio lose lots of money to the pros on High Stakes Poker. And just when the world was going amateur crazy, there seems to now be a trend of the pros winning big tournaments lately, as highlighted by the WSOP
The fact is that good players are winning good money. All is right with the world. End of column.
That would really suck if it was, but I have more. You see, one thing that makes poker so intriguing is that for some, despite the losses, they keep on coming back. That’s what Tim Freedman’s lyric means. Players tell themselves they can be bigger than old habits, and they never follow through with it.
Now, why am I mentioning this? Because pros are realizing exactly that. Rather than try and beat the best, why not beat the ones that can’t help coming back? If someone is a bad player, and asks you for a game, why not?
And this stems right down to the low stakes, too. You see a player who you know is absolutely terrible, what do you do? Yell out to the supervisor, you want a transfer! Online – you notice a player you put a red (that means bad) tab on has just sat down on a heads up table, at stakes you comfortably afford. Double click that table as fast as you can!
I enjoy the challenge of a high quality opponent, but when it comes right down to it, poker is about making money. If you have found a person who is willing to ship their hard earned cash your way because they have deep wallets and no knowledge, nothing should stop you from playing them. Well, one thing could.
People tell stories about how they lost their roll because they played for all of it against a bad player, and he got lucky. Well, tough luck. Bad players getting lucky? Who would have thought it could happen? The question that should be asked, is what were you doing betting more than you could afford? If a big whale comes into town, sits down on the highest stakes table there is, and dumps a wad of cash on the table before casually asking the dealer: ‘so what are the rules again?’ – This is not your cue to sell your clothes for enough cash to buy in. Yes, he probably will suck at the game, and he most definitely should, in the long run, deposit money your way, but if you can’t afford to play, you simply shouldn’t. That’s your weakness. If you find yourself playing above your limits often, you can’t be bigger than your own habits, like in the song.
As I mentioned earlier, there will always be someone out there who has money to burn and doesn’t know how to play. And yet, they will naively sit down, blow through their cash, shrug their shoulders, get a drink, and come back next week to do it all again. I can think of plenty at all kinds of stakes, both online and live, who I have noted as players to play against. You should too.
If there is one thing I want you to take out of this, it’s that you can
be bigger than your old habits. Make the effort to make the change. If you are serious about your poker, follow around those bad players like you’re hunting them. If I see one of my targets walk
into the poker room, I immediately ask them what they’re playing. Not just because I like being social, but also because I want to join that aforementioned table and take their money. It’s not personal; it’s just that I know that they are an easy target with cash to burn.
I believe poker is a game of skill, not luck. The luck factor is what keeps bad players coming back. They win once; they feel like they’re invincible. Think about it. If this game was all luck, then no one would ever truly be successful, because luck would balance out. And if this game was all skill, there would be no value left, because if you were more skillful, you would win, and subsequently the less skillful wouldn’t find a reason to play. Poker is one of the few games in the world where the most woeful amateur can play against the best in the world and win. And that’s what keeps those woeful amateurs coming back. They win that million dollars, and then spend the next ten years slowly giving it back to the people that they beat. Be that person! Be that player that waits in the wings for the amateur to return to the felt, and take his not-so-hard earned cash away from him. And then, if he moves tables, move with him! And do it all again.
If you find yourself on a tough table, remember, and I can’t stress this enough: There is ALWAYS someone worse than you. If you are reading this, there is someone worse than you, out there, right now, playing your limits, at a table you should be at. Don’t even finish reading this column, I’m just summarizing then signing off, I expect you to go find that player, live or online, and stick to them.
Leave this page with one lesson learned: follow the money. Always follow the weaker players, wherever they will go. Maybe you can be bigger than your old habits… but they can't.