Do you pay attention to the players at a table before you join a poker game? You should! Alan25main explains why.
Decisions, decisions! You enter the card room or lobby and see a dozen tables playing your favorite game and at your price–and most have an open seat. How do you decide which table to join?
You could pick one at random. You may not know anyone, but that means they don’t know you, either. So, this option has neither any advantage nor any disadvantage. It’s simply an unknown.
You could pick one filled with familiar faces. Unless you have strong feelings about the players, this has an advantage in that you’ve dealt with this group before so you may know how to play them, and, if they’re friends, you’ll have a good time socially.
You could pick one where you know, but don’t enjoy, the players. The disadvantage is obvious, unless you think you can out-play most of them.
You could pick one where you see a group of fish you’ve met and defeated before. Again, an obvious advantage to you.
You see one with some players you know and others you don’t. Another unknown.
You see a smaller table of five plus the open seat. You know three of them and one is a bingo buffoon sitting to the right of the open seat. That might be the best table to join. Why? Because in four of every six deals you’ll be acting after that gambler with knowledge of what they did immediately in front of you. Sixty per cent of the time or more, you’ll be in position on them. You also have the benefit of knowing some of the other players, too. That’s a huge advantage.
In the real world, what matters to you may not have anything to do with how likely you are to be able to beat the opponents. If you’ve come on a social visit, meeting and interacting with a particular group of players may be far more important to you than any possible chip win. Seeing your friends is important, too.
Always remember that we can “play poker” without money, without a table or chairs, or being close enough to touch each other physically. We can even find ways to play without cards by betting on random unknowns.
Decades ago, I heard a story–almost certainly untrue, though Ike was known as a great poker player– about a farmer in 1950s Pennsylvania. He was about ready to go to bed when there was a knock on his door. He answered it.
There stood President Eisenhower. “Our car has a flat and our jack is broken. May we borrow one from you to change the tire?”
“Well, Mr. President, I guess you can, but the price is that I want to play a hand of poker against you. I’ve heard you were a really good player.”
“Certainly. That sounds easy enough. Tell the Secret Service agents where to find the jack. Then, grab a deck of cards, shuffle up and deal. I’ll have guys start changing the tire.”
“Sir, there a problem. I don’t have any cards to play with. Think of something while I show them where the jack is.” The farmer went outside for about a minute and returned.
“What’s your name, sir?” asked Ike.
“I’m called George, Mr. President.”
“Okay, George. I know you have cows. I saw some on the way in. Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll each take a paper bag, go outside, you on the left and me on the right of the house. We’ll each find the biggest dried up cow-pie we can fit into the bag in five minutes. Then we’ll make a bet on which one is bigger before we show the pies. Who ever has the bigger pie wins the bet. Does that sound fair?”
“Yes, sir, it does. How much should we bet?”
“No limit. Bet whatever you want. You go left and I’ll go right and we’ll meet back here in five minutes or less.” The men suited their actions to their words.
George quickly figured out that Ike was no fool. The barn and barnyard were on the right where Ike would be looking. After several minutes of searching in the near dark, George had found only one small cow-pie, and it wasn’t completely dry, yet. Along with a handful of leaves, George put the pitiful pie into his paper bag and folded it shut. He walked back into the house.
As he arrived, Ike was carefully carrying his bag with both hands and supporting its bottom. Ike had a big smile.
“George, what do you figure this farm is worth counting everything?” George told him.
“That’s how much I’ll bet then. If you don’t call, then the bet is off and we both go on our ways peacefully.”
George thought about how small his cow-pie was, how big Ike’s pie must be, and realized he didn’t want to risk his whole livelihood and savings on something as silly as a cow-pie.
“Do you call or fold, George?” asked Ike.
“I fold, Mr. President. You have a nice night and give those Congress-critters what for.”
“Thanks for a good game, George.” Ike turned and started for the door, still carrying the cow-pie bag.
“Mr. President, just how big is that cow-pie?”
Ike smiled. He unfolded the bag’s top, held the bag over his own head and dumped it. Nothing came out. The bag had been empty all along.
The only real indispensable for a poker game is fellow players. There can be no game without opponents.