Act like the house toward poker opponents

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There is an old saying in the poker: “Don’t tap the glass on the aquarium.” What it means is don’t scare the “fish.”

It amazes me regulars criticize and sometimes even embarrass the guy at the table who’s out for a night of recreational play.

Imagine as a regular you are the house. What does a casino do when a so-called fish comes to the craps, roulette or blackjack table? It welcomes the fish with open arms. The house doesn’t say, “How could you play that hand?” or “I don’t believe you played your hand that way.”

What’s the point? What’s the psychology behind this kind of behavior? The casino understands it’s in the business of making money and the best way to make money is to make the customer happy.

But many regular poker players aren’t in the business of making money. Some are there to feel good, others to show their skills or because it’s their life.

Many people only feel good when they “best” someone and let them know. I’m talking about self-centered, narcissistic behavior and not the self-confidence that goes with peak performance.

For many people, the poker table is another place to show off, whether it’s with “daring” play or rolls of hundreds they don’t care about losing. These are the people, who “teach at the table.” They’re not the people who keep light-hearted banter going, who accept a win without commenting on others’ play, who don’t let their sense of self worth get caught up in getting sucked out on.

Everyone at the table is there for a reason. It’s time for some “regulars” to get a handle on why they’re there and that their reasons are no different than the guy who drops in for a fun night. But the regular, if interested, might consider seeing himself as the house instead of someone driving away the guy who is willing to spend some money. If that’s his goal and your goal is to grind out a decent profit, treat him like a good customer. Remember he can win in the short term, but if you’re as good as you think, you should win in the long run.

It’s important to not only know why you play but why everyone else at the table is playing. You have to keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.