Don't be a rule stickler

One of the most important skills in being a good, professional poker player, especially as the games toughen up, is maki...

Posted Mar 25, 2013


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

One of the most important skills in being a good, professional poker player, especially as the games toughen up, is making the recreational players feel comfortable. I have touched on this in the past but I really think that it is worth mentioning again. Recently, I have actually seen big donators to the game get up and leave when they do not want to play with certain players.

This is part of the reason that there has been such a growth and influx of super high raked “home games” even in areas where poker is legal in casinos. Not only do the recreational players feel like they have more of a shot to win when playing with less pros proprietors can hand pick their lineups and only allow players that people actually like and make for a good game.

Obviously the worst thing that you can do to a recreational player is berate them for their poor skill. It still amazes me that I see this from experienced guys from time to time. I mean, if poker did not have luck in it we would not have a game. There is going to be variance and that is what keeps the bad players coming back for more. But besides berating behavior the other major thing that I see time and time again from so called “bad” professionals is strictly enforcing mundane, inane rules against weaker players. I have talked in the past that sometimes I will knowingly allow a big fish to angle me –so long as it is not so over the top—because I know that the money is going to be coming back. Now I would not let a fellow pro do this but if it gives a bad player a little bit of satisfaction so be it. However, I would never angle anyone and most specifically a recreational player who is losing money. And that is really how I treat enforcing ridiculously strict interpretations of rules.

But rules are the rules, you say. Well I disagree. We all know that some laws and rules in society are not enforced and do not hold the same weight as others. There are some crazy blue laws that are on the books—some about the size of your donkey and others prohibiting pockets in your pants. More practically we in the poker community are up in arms about federal resources being used to prosecute online poker sites and processors. Selective enforcement is something that definitely exists in our society and I think we should apply the same line of thinking at the poker table.

It is pretty obvious that someone new to the game might not be familiar with all of the intricacies of live poker. Probably the biggest example of how this is taken advantage of is regulars calling string raises against beginning players. And these experience players certainty are angling as they are trying to achieve whatever advantage they can. Are the beginning players technically breaking the rules? Yes. Should we enforce that as players? No. If a regular or more experienced player does the same thing is it different? Yes. Again, it is very important for us as professionals to keep the new blood coming into poker. The best way to do this is to make newbies experiences enjoyable and make it seem like to these players that they at least have a chance.

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