It’s Not About Pride


I played a $125 tournament last night at The Orleans. My girlfriend lives a few blocks away so I’ve been grinding the cash games there some nights and she was playing the tournament so I jumped in. I probably shouldn’t have played since Friday nights are typically my most profitable cash game nights, but it sounded like fun.

The Friday night tournament at The Orleans always draws a huge field, and most of them are recreational players without a lot of knowledge about the game. The field was 191 last night, with first place approaching $4,700.

My starting table was very soft, with lots of players calling raises but unwilling to risk their tournament life. Half an hour after I sat down, I limped under the gun, something I would rarely do in a bigger buy-in tournament with stronger players, at the 150/300 level with a 10k stack. The player to my immediate left raised to 800 and five players behind him called.

The raise to less than 3x after a limper usually doesn’t indicate a ton of strength. Recreational players will usually make a play like this to limit the field with a medium strength hand when they don’t know how to handle a six way flop with something like AJ or KQ or 99. The players calling behind him are not likely to have a big hand either since they know the flop will be multi-way if they don’t reraise.

With over 4,000 in the pot, a lot of fold equity with a 10k stack, and a hand that plays fairly well all-in, it looked like a good spot to steal by going all-in. And it almost worked. The button had called the 800 with AQo for some strange reason, and he called my all-in. I made a pair and he didn’t, and I stacked 25,000 chips while he was left with just a few thousand.

We can debate my play. Maybe a call was safer and smarter. For 500 chips I had a chance to win a big pot and the downside was very small. But there is no doubt that my play was well thought out and very likely to work by either winning without a showdown or getting the pot heads up with a chance to win and an extra 4,000 in the middle.

My opponent did not agree. He made multiple comments about how I was obviously a gambler and noted that my play was terrible and made no sense. I agreed, told him that I play for fun and that it’s all a gamble anyway. His reply?

“For guys like you it is.”

Ah, I remember those days. When I was first learning a little poker strategy and wanted to show off my knowledge and let everyone know that I was serious about poker. I was never as rude to a bad player as he was to me, but I certainly had that attitude those first few months. And I’m sure that I saw plays that I didn’t understand. I hope I didn’t comment on them.

When I posted this exchange on twitter, multiple followers suggested I pull out my bracelet to shut him up. But why would I do that? I never mentioned a word about being a poker pro. Throughout the tournament I ran into two more players who told me how terrible I was and I stuck with my story. I play poker for fun and play my cards however I want. It’s all a gamble anyway right?

Because of the bracelet, I don’t need to tell anyone anything about how good I am. I know how good I am. I have a bracelet and more importantly I have 13 years of playing poker for a living. I don’t need to tell any of my opponents how good I am. Let them think I’m a fish. It’s refreshing. I don’t get much of that in Minnesota or in bigger buy-in events in Vegas. But in this little tournament at The Orleans, I got to be a clueless fish for a night.

No one knew I could play, I stole a ton of pots because of it, and it took two big beats to bust me just before the final table. It was fun. It was profitable. And not a single one of my opponents has any idea who they were playing with. And I’m going to keep it that way.

So. Do you want money or respect? Because one costs a bit of the other. I have enough respect for myself, I’ll take the money. If you already have enough money, go for the respect, it’s fun too. But be conscious of the reality that they are somewhat exclusive. Proving how well you play can cost you money.

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