I recently witnessed one of the more self-destructive plays I’ve ever seen at a Caesars World Series of Poker Circuit event. It was the first level of a $1,060 buy-in tournament. The blinds were 25-50 and the players involved were close to the 15K starting chips. Our dunce was in early position and raised to $150. He was called by a player in late position as well as the big blind. I was seated next to the dunce who was wearing headphones. He obviously couldn’t hear a thing at the table but that’s his prerogative. The flop came J-3-6 rainbow. The big blind threw a 1K chip in the pot and said 600. I didn’t hear him but others clearly did. Our dunce saw the chip, took off his headphones and asked the dealer if that was the bet. The dealer said yes. He called. The player in late position threw in 600, which caused the dunce to rip off his headphones. The players at the other end of the table all agreed the big blind clearly said 600 when he made his original bet.
Our music-loving dunce went ballistic. He whined how this misinformation caused the entire hand to be played differently. He protested he would’ve raised and not just called if he knew the bet was only 600. He insisted on bringing over the floor. After a passionate, articulate though somewhat mad plea, the floor informed him the action stood. This unleashed a fresh tirade directed at the dealer.
The turn brought a seven and the big blind checked since our dunce had basically informed everyone of his hand by revealing his entire thought process. (I assumed he had a set at this point, which he later confirmed.) Our dunce bet 1,500 and the player in late position raised to 4K. The big blind folded and the dunce then berated the dealer some more, whining how she was going to cost him a ton of chips. He reluctantly called. The river was a blank. The villain checked and the player, who obviously had a straight, bet 4K. Our dunce turned his anger to his opponent and told him how dumb he was and that the way he played his hand made no sense. He finally called to see the straight and quickly mucked his hand.
Wearing headphones so you can’t hear the action, telling everyone your intentions in a pointless protest that had no chance of winning, and then going into a complete meltdown is as destructive as it gets. Our loser blamed everyone but himself for how this hand played out. While this is an obvious example, always start with self-evaluation rather than external factors when critiquing your play.
— David Apostolico is the author of Tournament Poker and The Art of War. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.