Give recreational players a break



Why does someone play poker? Fun, money, competition, adrenalin rush, better than bingo.

For some, poker seems to be the last arena for their completive nature. For others, it’s a release or recreational thing.

Others play fairly seriously, study the game. Some think there’s always a “right” play and that if everyone made the right play they would win every pot because they’re better at the math, the reads, etc.

Often, these players get upset with the recreational guy who doesn’t seem to care about losing, or winning, a buy-in or two.

Others are grinders; it’s their everyday living. They have to go to work; they have to be successful. This is not that much different from owning a business. But it’s probably different from working in a big corporation. These folks have to be entrepreneurs.

Not all recreational players are fish, however, and poker needs to give them a break. Stop talking about knocking on the fish tank or leaving the game when the fish leaves. Don’t be annoyed with losing to a weaker player. If you’re one of these players, think about your attitude. If this is your living, there’s etiquette.

Everyone likes to win. That may be a simple statement but it has to do with behavior and reinforcement. Everyone likes to leave with money in the pocket. For some, it’s a necessity, others an enjoyment.

Most recreational players don’t know a lot about the math, how to read patterns or leveling. They can’t be taken advantage of because they’re not there to grind out a win. But after some have a couple of sessions winning, they start thinking they have mastered the game and start plying over their head, and that’s a problem.

The best strategy for this is to limit the variables. Someone once said if you have a good preflop hand and are seated at a table with Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu or others, then go all-in. It limits the choices and you can’t get outplayed.

These players don’t devote the time to be a consistent winner or a winner over time. They don’t play enough hands overall. Often, narrowing the range of their opponent is something that eludes them. “What am I playing against?” This is different than playing top pair and a flush draw and getting it all-in against two pair.

Regulars and grinders should give the recreational player a break. Recreational players? Know your limits. And everyone? Keep your head in the game.

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

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine