Stop berating inferior players at the poker table



People do stupid things all of the time. When you’re working at a sushi restaurant and someone asks if you have pizza, you’d like to tell them how stupid they are for coming to a sushi restaurant and asking for pizza. What an idiot, right? But you don’t tell them that. You bite your tongue, politely empathize with them and explain the other options available. It’s customer service. As a professional poker player, whether you like it or not, you are in the business of customer service.

Stop berating people for their play. Stop asking them how they can call with that awful hand. Stop throwing your cards at the dealer. These antics have been beneficial to exactly one person in the history of poker and you’re not Phil Hellmuth.

You’re a professional poker player now and your job is to make sure people want to play at your table and don’t want to bluff you at every opportunity.

Let’s assume for a moment that being a decent human being isn’t enough to get you to stop these antics at a poker table; there’s still plenty of incentive to act cordially.

The most obvious example is when people play poorly; it helps you. Pointing out bad play only upsets the player, makes them not want to play at your table in the future and maybe even makes them play a little better. All of these things are bad in the long run and only marginally helpful, if at all, in the short term.

The best reason to not upset recreational players at lower limits, however, is it tends to keep their ranges narrower. The same reason they always want to “check it down” with their friends; they aren’t making a living doing this.

They are here to have fun, socialize and, wow, do they hate jacks. They don’t need to take every ounce of EV and attack every pot.

A recreational player that likes you is significantly less likely to try to run a big bluff, which narrows the ranges you’re playing against when you need to make big decisions on large bets.

Just like the sushi waiter that doesn’t have a pizza, smile, grit your teeth and vent about it when you’re off work. You are working, remember that.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine