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The Smaller the Buy-in, the Bigger the Mouth

If you're like me, interacting with other players at the table is an important part of your game. I generally enjoy meeting other players and getting to know what makes them tick. Sometimes this information is valuable later in the tournament, but mostly I enjoy the various personalities drawn to the game. I live 90 minutes from the nearest casino so my live playing opportunities tend to be limited to when I travel. When I'm at my home base (as I am presently), I have to settle for the online experience. And this means communication via the almighty chat box. I have a theory about online poker:

The smaller the buy-in, the bigger the mouth.

For those of you who play tournament poker, you know what I mean. An inordinate number of players want to tell you what a horrible player you are, what they did to your mother last night and what they would do to you if they were in your physical vicinity. I swear the cowardly lion could have avoided all the perils on the way to Oz and simply logged into an online poker game and he would have found his courage in an instant. But, then again, we wouldn't have a treasured film…so I guess it's just as well the golden age of poker didn't dawn in the late 1930s. In this month's Poker Pro, Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies wrote "I know it sounds retarded to tilt over a freeroll, but I can't help it". I encounter folks all the time who enter minis (small buy-in tournaments) and seem to be there more to shoot their mouth off than play poker.

Last night I needed a distraction from taxes and logged into a mini tourney on PokerStars. I could see where this was going on the 3rd hand. I have A/K in the cutoff and I'm preceded by a 3x raise and one caller. I repop to 10x and the original raiser calls. Flop comes K/J/10 rainbow. Original raiser bets 2/3 pot and I shove. He insta-calls with a set of 10s. I start to congratulate him and lick my $4 wound when the virtual dealer peels off a Q on the river giving me a straight.

Queue the harassment.

For the next 7 hands I watch this guy implode about my play (arguably questionable, but I'm not going to ponder much on hand 3 of a $4 tourney) until he busts out. He continues for a bit from the virtual rail, but no one is paying attention so I guess he went and kicked his dog or hopefully enrolled in anger management classes. I thought we could return to poker. I was wrong.

With about 600 of the 1,000 original players left (this was a 1,000 player max tourney) I found myself in a battle of the blinds with me in the big blind. The guy next to me was a lightswitch. He had been at the table for 21 hands and made exactly two bets…both all-in preflop. He limps and I check my option with my 6/2o (if you've played with me before, you will recognize these are generally raising cards – but I decided to slowplay this time!). Flop comes 10/5/2 rainbow and the small blind bets the pot. I call. Turn is a jack and the small blind bets the pot. I call. The river is a king. The small blind checks and I put in a value bluff. After about three seconds, the small blind folds and I pick up the pot with bottom pair, no kicker. He proudly tells me he folded 7/7 and "did me a favor" by not raising.

Here is where I make my mistake.

I should have just said "gf" (good fold). But he had a lot of chips, so I thought getting him on tilt might increase my EV. So, instead, I suggested he "stick with being a lightswitch…because playing poker's not really your thing".

And we have ignition!

This guy goes through the regular motions…questioning my lineage, my sexual preferences, looking up various stats about my play, suggesting various rendezvous spots for him to "punch my head in", etc. I pause the episode of Entourage I'm watching and tune in to my new favorite show. It takes very little effort on my part to fan the flame, but I manage to keep him tilting for the next hour. My favorite part of his banter is his advice for me to watch him so I can "learn how to win a tournament". Unfortunately, he's in lock down poker, so I'm not getting any chip spewage…yet.

With about 300 left in the tournament (top 104 get paid), I'm short stacked with A/10s in the big blind. The guy in the cutoff pops it to 2.5x and I shove. He insta-calls with aces. Flop comes Q/7/9. Once again, I'm ready to wish the players a "gg" (good game) and get back to work. An 8 on the turn teases me. And a J on the river gives me a straight and delivers a bad beat to the guy with the rockets. Although I got lucky I don't feel bad about my play. The guy with aces was raising a lot of pots and I had about 20% of my chips already committed in the blind. Of course, the guy to my right (lightswitch) saw things differently. And now he has someone to commiserate with.

It's stupidity, not misery, that loves company.

These two are lighting up the chat box when we go to break. I face the tough choice of enjoying their uninformed thoughts or making a late dinner. My appetite wins out, but when I return a few minutes later, the guy to my right (my friend from the battle of the blinds two hours ago) has clearly taken the lead in attacking me. I mouse over his avatar to learn he's from Glasgow. I ask if he could chat in a Scottish brogue because it might make him more interesting. The other players at the table offer a few LOLs. My new friend to my right is now in a stage 5 meltdown. I kept thinking our table would break soon, but we stayed together for another two hours and this guy would introduce me to each new player alternatively as "luckbox" "suckout king" or some such term.

Shortly after the bubble, my antagonist gets lucky after he's all-in preflop with 8/8 against k/k. An eight hits on the flop and he doubles up. Of course, when he hits a two-outer, it was a well-timed, strategic play. When I do…well, whatever. I opt not to comment about his good fortune as he's already defensive enough about it in the chat box even though no one commented on it.

Five hours later…

…we make the final table. We're playing eight-handed tables in this tournament, so that's how many are left. Believe it or not, the guy to my right (yep, my table was the final table so we never moved) is still reliving my A/10 suckout from five hours previous. He is still strong chip-wise (thanks to his hand with the 8s). The next break I take a short walk to stretch my legs. When I reenter the room I see two jacks in my hand. An instant later I see my Scottish friend shove all his chips forward. I call and he shows 10/10. The board is clean and I bust my new friend. He is silent in losing. I guess there really was nothing left to say…but this was likely the case 4.5 hours ago!

I end up heads up for the tournament and both of us have ~1.5M chips. On the third hand, I pick up 4/8o. My opponent raises the 25k/50k blinds to 75k. I reraise to 225k. He calls. I get a dream flop…A/8/4 rainbow. I bet 625k and he moves all in. I call and he shows A/10s. The board comes runner/runner deuces giving my opponent a higher two pair. I guess the guy from Scotland was right. I should have let him show me how to win the tournament. Instead I trusted my instincts and had to settle for second place.

It's poker-tainment, stupid.

So what is it about these micro-stakes/macro-mouths? I think I get it. These guys play for reputation, not money. They would rather get $4 of value by defending what they think they already know, rather than an investment in information for future application. I guess that's good for players like me in the long run. If someone is so comfortable in their game, they refuse to be open to change, then they are setting themselves up to have an expensive hobby. I know I'll encounter this player again soon on Stars…and I look forward to it. He'll assume I always get my money in with the worst of it and I'll provide him an opportunity to discover otherwise.

The good news is he never will make this discovery.

Take time to Tilt,

John

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