Whatever you do at the poker table, don’t be ‘that guy’

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A few years ago, I played a $2-$5 game at a casino near where I live. To my left was a regular in the game, one of those lives-at-the-casino types who chain-smokes, knows most of the dealers by name and sips one cocktail an hour out of boredom. Let’s call him “Robert.”

I’d never sat next to Robert. On this particular night, though, he was directly to my left. Almost immediately after sitting, he turned to me and said, “Do you chop?” which meant, of course, if the action were ever folded around to me in the small blind, would I chop the blinds with him?

Up until then, I had never had someone ask me if I chopped the blinds outside of the situation occurring, during which time I always defer the question back to them. “I chop 95 percent of the time,” I said, half joking. (I’ve since modified my answer to this question, but more on that later.) Robert nodded, made a facial expression that reminded me of how De Niro looks when he’s pissed off in Casino, and sipped his cocktail.

A few orbits later, the action folded to me and I raised Robert’s big blind with A-Ks. He looked over at me, squinted his eyes in disapproval and snap-called. I flopped top pair, put out a continuation bet and he folded.

Then he jumped out of his chair. “How could you raise my big blind?” he said, throwing his hands up in the air in frustration. “Are you some rookie here? You joke.” I sat there, quietly, and didn’t say a word. This aggravated him more.
He wouldn’t let the issue go. Over the next three hours, Robert drank eight or nine more cocktails in an attempt to calm himself down. “I’m drinking because of what you did to me,” he said at one point. And each time a new player would sit at our table, he would point at me and bark to them, “This guy doesn’t chop. He’s a total joke. Rookie.”

The evening ended after a sloppy-drunk Robert dived across the table, pushed my chips into my lap and asked if I wanted to fight him. I took that as my cue to leave.

The lesson I learned from this experience is two-fold. First, don’t be that guy at the table who is loud, obnoxious, and yells at other players. Don’t be that guy who views everyone at the table as an enemy, treats them disrespectfully and gets drunk to compensate for being bored at the table or for being tilted about a situation when a player made an action you find abhorrent.

Lastly, when you sit at a table and someone to your left or right asks if you chop, take a firm position on the issue, and sick to it until someone new sits in their seat. Don’t be that guy who isn’t consistent with their opponents about chopping the blinds. Guys like that are real jerks.

— Brent White is a journalist, writer, editor and poker player who lives in Chicago. He can be reached at brentwhitechicago@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @brentwhite.