“Facts are Stupid Things.” – Ronald Reagan
Poker, unlike most gambling activities, is a social game (unless you’re playing online). You’ll be seated at a table with eight others so social skills are very important. Props know this well.
The games you play in probably has proposition players, or ‘props.’ Cardrooms use these players to start games when they don’t have enough players for a full table. Props often play in ‘short’ games (games where the tables are not full), must always be helpful to the other players at the table (after all, they are employees of the cardroom) and, of course, must try to earn a living. Depending on the State, props may or may not be wearing badges. No matter, if you play for any length of time in a cardroom, you should be able to identify most of the props in your game.
At the cardroom that I frequent Paul the Prop plays in the $6/$12 Omaha Togel game (with a full kill to $12/$24). Paul has most of the technical aspects of the game down – he keeps good records, knows the fundamentals, and wants to learn (after all, learning the game never stops). Paul plays conservatively, as do most props (although they are paid an hourly rate by the cardroom, the money they play poker with is their own). Paul also has excellent people skills. I have never seen Paul raise his voice in anger. This is a feat given that Paul plays Omaha 40± hours a week and, like everyone else, is subject to the vagaries of this game.
A week or two ago I was sitting with Paul on my right and motor-mouth Mark on my left. Mark is a very successful businessman who enjoys playing poker. He plays too many hands – he knows that he needs cards that work together, but he has yet to figure out that middle cards are death in Omaha. The game was filled with the other ‘usual suspects,’ three regulars, and three players that I didn’t recognize. Paul had the button, so I was the small blind and Mark was the big blind when this hand occurred.
I was dealt an ordinary hand, A458, and watched as four players called before Paul raised. My hand, according to Poker Probe, is equivalent to a random hand and is certainly worth calling in an unraised pot. But when Paul raised my hand becomes worth a lot less. Normally, you should be very wary when a prop raises as he or she will usually have an excellent hand. I folded, Mark called, and six players saw a flop of 679. Had I stayed in the hand, I would have flopped the second nut straight, with a backdoor flush draw and a mediocre low draw.
Mark checked, an early position player bet, Paul raised, and Mark re-raised. One player dropped out to see the turn of the 4. Mark bet and the four other remaining players called. The river brought the 9?, making a flush and a boat possible. Mark checked, it was bet by a player who had only been calling, Paul raised, then Mark grumbled about being rivered but called along with the rest of the field. Paul had A239 and had the only low (there were two A-3 lows, including Mark), while the river better made a full house with 44JQ. Why everyone else called was beyond me; however, it was typical for this game. Mark got none of the pot – he showed me his hand while he folded: A38T. He had flopped the nut straight but ended up with none of the pot.
The point of this article is not the hand I’ve just described – a very ordinary Omaha hand. It’s what happened just after the hand was over. Ted, the player who won high, made a comment about the lucky river card. This set Mark off (not that it takes much to set him off) who started on a verbal tirade about how rotten a hand that Ted played. Ignoring (for the moment) that Mark was right, that Ted’s hand was a horrible Omaha hand (the proof of which will be left to the reader), Mark committed a fundamental sin: upsetting the applecart.
Poker, if there were no rake, would be a zero-sum game. The good and/or lucky players would win and the poor and/or unlucky players would lose. In public cardrooms there is either a rake or a time-charge; thus, at least 60% of all players are losers (probably a much higher percentage than this).
I learned many years ago to never criticize the poor players. These are the players who will, after all, allow you to make a profit. If a player takes an action that will make him a long-term loser but, today, happens to make him a short-term winner, you should smile and congratulate the player, not berate him.
Upsetting the applecart has one of two deleterious effects: either you will anger the player so that he no longer frequents your game or you will cause him to improve his play (at a rate faster than he would otherwise do so). In order for you to win while playing poker, especially Omaha high-low, you must have poor players in your game. Omaha, more than any other poker game, is a horrible game when filled with all expert players.
I took Mark aside and tried to tell him that lecturing players at the table isn’t a bright idea. I mentioned that congratulating the other player for his lucky catch will encourage that player to continue his bad habits (practice makes imperfect, after all). I know he heard me, but I guess he’s genetically predisposed to talking. His wife bought him a Walkman for the holidays, so I’m hoping that this will lessen his gift for gab. It hasn’t yet, but there’s always hope for tomorrow.