Thursday, March 31, 2016

Poker should be honest even if the players ain't

I've been a long time fan of poker starting somewhere at the beginning of this century when we had this ring of Scandinavian Stud (Sökö) players getting together once a month (on payday). It was poker at it's friendliest level. With a random entry fee, everybody was allowed to eat and drink for free, and everything that was leftover was in the pot. Winner takes it all, but the winner had to pay the cab to the first pub and buy around for everyone involved in the game. As you can guess, the winner was the one who lost the least amount of money during the night.

Few years later I got into Texas Hold Em, and afterwards I went on to games like Omaha, Courchevel, Eight-game, Seven-deuce, Crazy Pineapple, Lime and all kinds of variants. My favourite is Dealer's choice, where you basically play the form of poker that the dealer (The player on the button) decides.

Today I was reading Irish Poker Boards, and found a link to David Kilmartin's aka Lappin's latest blog post "Poker players are liars". There he starts with the so called "show one, show all"-rule, which means that if a player shows his/her cards to another player, he/she is bound to show the cards to the all players. This rule is commonly mistaken to mean that if you show one card before mocking, you are required to show the other one as well (assuming you are playing Texas Hold Em, and of course you are, because you don't know any other forms outside 5-card draw poker commonly know as the Strip Poker).

He goes on talking about politics, and the life outside of poker. The main thing I noticed is that, even though poker players might occasionally bluff (100% bluff rate in the long term is de facto impossible), we shouldn't assume anything about poker players outside the set of rules. It is game of misleading, and one of the hardest forms of game theories as everyone has to make their decisions without having all the knowledge.

This takes me to an important lesson I once taught to my girlfriend when she was starting out. She registered to Full Tilt Poker, and started playing sit'n'go's (tournament which starts when a preset amount of players have been registered). Then she moved on to more challenging tournaments. We used to play poker at the same time with our own laptops in the same room. Once we were in the same tournament, and ended up in the same table. She was already saying that we should play against other players.

She was basically suggesting that we collude against other players. Which is basically cheating. She showed her hand (pair of kings), and I instantly turned my screen away from her informing my disgust against cheating, and also saw a change to teach an important lesson.

I was bound to act after her in the table and I had a pair of fives. The flop came with Ace, ten and a five. I made a set, but also the whole flop was coloured with spades. She checked, and I bet 1/3 of the pot. She looked at me, and was like what are you doing? I said that I won't tell you. She was probably afraid of the ace, but she also had the king of spades, which would give her the nut flush (the best possible flush). Turn card was a three (diamonds I think, anyways, not spades). She checked and I bet, and she was like "What am I doing? Do you have the ace?". "Guess?", I asked her. I think she thought I was playing some kind of mind game with her, and she was partially right. River card was the lucky three of spades, completing her flush, and giving me the full house. She checked, and I bet a full pot against her. And she was like "You know my cards, why are you betting?". She pondered for a while and decided to call to see the bad news.

She was pissed off. I did explain to her that she gave me all the information, and she should be lucky that I only bet 1/3 of the pot on the flop. There was a longer tutorial against cheating in poker, and so on, but to my knowledge she has never cheated after that. And she does pretty decent on poker tables.

What was the lesson then? Well, as I see, Poker is a game of luck, deception, and skill. Poker is also a game of rules, and we should feel compelled to them at all times. I like to think poker is a gentleman's game even though it is not represented with such class in TV, and even less in the corner tables of pubs. In the long term, I would like to think, every time somebody cheats in Poker, one to-be poker player gets another reason not to get involved, so in the end, all poker players lose.

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