Good Losers

Jan. 2, 2012, Posted by Jeff.Kimber

Good Losers

“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,” is a quote often applied to poker players to show that coming second should never be good enough and if you lose graciously it means you’re getting used to it and it doesn’t hurt enough.  The quote originated from American football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, but its application to poker is the accepted wisdom that nice guys always come last.

In the early days of the World Poker Tour they used to run a tournament called the Bad Boys of Poker, glorifying the behaviour of the likes of Tony G, Mike the Mouth and of course the Poker Brat himself, Phil Helmuth, as they chastised players for the way they played the game and generally behaved with an attitude.  As with almost everything in poker though, the times they are a changing, and again you can blame or thank (depending on your point of view) online poker for the proliferation of nice guys and people who lose with a smile on their face in a gentlemanly way – just not as broad a smile as they reserve for their victories, of which there are many.

Jake Cody is arguably the best player in British poker, completing the Triple Crown of WSOP, WPT and EPT titles in Vegas this year, and tearing up the domestic scene towards the end of 2011, with top three finishes in both the GUKPT Grand Final and the DTD Monte Carlo.  I first came across Jake three years ago in the GUKPT event in Blackpool, which I later found out was one of his first big live events – big to a guy used to playing £20 pub games, not to a guy who played $25,000 heads-up comps!

After half an hour with him three to my right, watching him raise and reraise every bet going and not being able to get in the game myself, I asked one of the younger, online guys who I knew at the time who this kid was.  He told me he’d just won an FTOPS (remember them?) a couple of weeks earlier and was a super aggro online guy who was trying his hand at live poker, but basically he never has anything.  Armed with my scouting report, I decide I’m going to take on this kid at the right time and put him in his place.  A few hands later, I got my chance. Jake raised in the cut-off on my big blind. Instantly I thought I’m going to three-bet him here with anything and when he folds I’ll give him the ‘not on my watch son’ look so he knows if he wants to bully he can leave me out.  I looked at my cards and I had AQ, more than enough for a three-bet anyway, so ahead I went. After a moment’s thought, Jake four-bet me, which I’d half expected. With no hand I’d have had to summon up all my inner flair to stick the lot in with air, but with AQ I thought there’s no way I don’t have the best hand.

“All-in,” I said.

“Call,” he snapped.

Despite being involved in 80% of pots so far that day, the one time I play back against him, he has a pair of kings.  Maybe that should be the first story of how good Jake Cody runs, after all, we all know how golden he is right?  Well, no. I spiked an ace and crippled him, completely misread the situation and got completely owned by a kid who’d hardly played a live game before.

I was embarrassed to have got lucky having been outplayed, and when he said ‘nice hand,’ I half thought it was with sarcasm as I glanced over to say thanks.    But no, he meant it. He knew better than I did at that time that it was a cooler. He knew that I’d done nothing wrong even if I felt like I’d mugged him. He’d played enough online tournaments to know that it’s just ‘standard’ if the aggro guy finally has a hand when you find enough to play back at him, and I’d been unlucky to get into that situation before sucking out.

Jake was soon knocked out and wished everyone well as he departed. At the next GUKPT I spotted him in the bar and decided I’d go and have a chat, almost wanting to explain to him I’m not just some donk who found an ace and a queen and thought I’d got the nuts, but that he was so aggro he’d forced me into it.We chatted for a while and he was the nicest guy ever. He already knew what had happened and forgotten it. I said to him how unlucky I was, and he looked confused – “How were you unlucky, you won with the worst hand?”

“Yeah, but how unlucky is it to play back at you once in three hours after you’ve played nearly every hand and pick the occasion you have a pair of kings?”

Since then Jake and I have been good friends, and I love the way he plays, to the point that it’s like watching a great master at work, doing things you wish you could do.  Every time he gets knocked out, and there are plenty of tournaments he doesn’t win and plenty of unlucky moments despite the nonsense about how good he must run, he’s a gentleman at all times, wishes everyone good luck and departs.

It may be the fact that online guys are used to losing. After all, they probably ‘lose’ 199 times a week if they play 200 tournaments online, maybe more.

The latest UK name to emerge, Sam Holden, seems exactly the same.  While I don’t know Sam, and have never played with him, one thing that is noticeable the times I have seen him play are the spirit and the good grace that he loses as well as wins.  After months of build up to his WSOP final table, Sam was first out and therefore didn’t earn any more than the ninth place money they’d all already received.  I was at James Akenhead’s final table and know that feels like a defeat, after all, you’ve not won anything on the November trip, the ninth place money was already locked up months ago.

In his interview after his KO, there was no woe is me from Sam, and no criticism of some of the play from his opponents that could have seen one of them knocked out and him secure another $220,000 without putting a chip in the pot.  Instead he paid tribute to his mates, the lads who’d travelled over to cheer him on, and apologised for not giving them more to cheer. How selfless is that?  It just goes to show though that good guys do come out on top, and while winning will always be the most important thing to poker players, there’s nothing better than winning with a smile.

Jeff Kimber is a 36-year-old Grosvenor Casino sponsored professional poker player who has amassed well over $1.5million in career earnings, having given up a successful career as a sports journalist to forge a career at the poker tables. He has won the World Heads-up championship and a UK Poker Tour main event, as well as major final tables in $5,000-plus buy-in events at WPT and Asian Poker Tour events, the Ladbrokes Poker Cruise and the Johnny Chan Invitational in the Caribbean. Jeff has made three WSOP final tables, all in PLO events, including a second place to JC Tran in 2009. While his live exploits have continued, Jeff is still a very successful online player under the nickname JaffaCake, uncluding winning iPoker’s ECOOP $1k PLO rebuy in December 2008 for close to $50k.

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