Don't Skip Rocks : Love Thy Fish

Jan. 19, 2012, Posted by Submission

Don't Skip Rocks : Love Thy Fish

Fish relentlessly chase cards, even when the pot odds are unfavorable. They play weak, call with anything, suck out on you, and have no clue on the felt. Basically, fish are stupid.

I should know. I'm one of them.

Which makes me qualified to give you low to mid-level grinders a valuable lesson in dealing with our species: treat us with respect.

Sure, you're already familiar with the age-old advice: "Don't tap the aquarium," but that doesn't accurately convey the message. An aquarium is small, and a tap is minor annoyance. The fish in it may get scared, but they'll always come back to the glass; there's nowhere else to go. So I prefer the phrase: "Don't skip rocks." Let me explain.

When I was a kid, my Dad would go lake fishing a lot. Like most men, it wasn't the fishing he loved so much as it was an excuse to drink beer outside while escaping a nagging wife. Occasionally I'd get to tag along. But a nine-year old boy can only go a few minutes without getting bored, so I'd search for smooth, flat rocks on the shore line and skip them across the water.

Dad would yell, "Don't skip rocks! They'll scare the fish!" He was right. But unlike an aquarium, the fish in a lake will leave for far corners, never to return.

Which brings us back to poker. Tonight, in virtually every cardroom in the world, there is at least one guy at every table "skipping rocks."

The cocky local in shades, with the ipod and unfriendly demeanor?

Skipping rocks.

The table captain who is a little too familiar with the dealer and staff -  who spends the night saying things like, "I had 9 outs twice, so I was a 35% favorite."

Skipping rocks.

And worst of all, the guy who taunts when he wins, criticizes players when he loses?  Actually this is NOT skipping rocks; it's airlifting three ton slabs of granite over a lake and causing a tsunami.

It's always amazing to me to see guys who are great at cards, but horrible with people. They don't realize that fish like me want to have fun. Your headphones, your gossip-sharing with dealers, and your unsolicited poker lessons raise our antennae. We want a friendly, casual game against tourists equally inept as we are. If you're not one of us, at least play the part. It's more profitable for you.

Case in point: I'm playing $10/$20 limit hold-em at the Mirage three or four years ago when I wind up heads-up in pot against a smack-talking local pro. The river fails to complete any of my draws and the local fires out a bet. I call with nothing but ace high because (A) Something  about the hand and his play just doesn't smell right and (B) Because like I said, I'm a fish.

Amazingly, my ace high takes the pot. The local, of course, is livid: "That was a horrible call" he says.

Normally I ignore trash talk at the table, but in this case I had spent the past 4 hours drinking truth serum, or as some people call it: Jack Daniels.

"That was a horrible call," I told him, "But you should LOVE playing against players who make bad calls."

He was taken aback by this, "Well, uh, normally I do."

Of course he does. Everyone loves fish when they're spewing chips. The key is to love them even when they scoop the occasional pot.

We fish understand your frustration with us. We realize those chips in the middle represent part of your rent that month, or a car payment. This is your full or part-time job. Yet while the poker room may be your office, it's our playground. And if we're not having fun, we'll take our ball (or this case, our chips), and go home.

The verbal smack-downs, the "Nice hand sir," (a phrase I think we can all agree  became old sometime in the spring of 2006), and other sarcastic put-downs ruin our experience and may cause us to flee. We'll give you our money, but only if you keep your mouth shut. So what do you want: to cash up three racks or win a debate? Because there's always a seat open somewhere.

A few hands after my ace-high win, I cashed in and went to Caesars's poker room, looking for friendlier pastures. That night's details are a little shady, but I believe I spent the evening at a fun table, drinking more Jack and spewing chips. My ATM card may have gotten a work-out too. From what I remember, it was a fun night, and a lesson for you grizzled, hardened locals. Even fish have feelings. We'll play badly and lose our stack, just don't verbally pimp-slap us on those rare times when we win a pot.

You can have either our pride or our money.

Pick one.

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