Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.
Hi, again. Have you ever been desperate to know what things about poker annoy me? Of course you haven’t. But that’s because you’re self-centered and not appropriately focused on what’s important in my life.
Well, it’s time to talk about me. Today’s word is “Annoyance.” And here comes another edition in this series of self interviews.
When this column was published in Poker Player, it included an editorial announcement. It’s repeated here, purely for historical purposes:
BREAKING NEWS… Mike Caro is scheduled to do four seminars in conjunction with the 2009 World Series of Poker at the Rio.
The preliminary dates are May 30, May 31, June 13, and June 27. Times will be announced. Tickets will be available at the WSOP.
Question 1: Obviously, the most annoying thing in poker is when stupid players take weak hands to the river and draw out on you, right?
First of all, I never use the word “stupid” to describe an opponent. In fact, calling an opponent stupid, a fish, or a sucker irritates me. So, let’s mark that down as a bonus annoyance that I hadn’t planned to talk about.
Players gather at the table for different reasons. Some come to socialize. Some come to be entertained. Some can afford to lose and don’t care whether their decisions seem absurd to us.
Beyond that, it doesn’t annoy me at all when opponents play poorly and win my pots. I know that in the long run, they’ll probably lose by playing that way. And that lost money has to go somewhere. Some of it will come my way.
So, I take players getting lucky and drawing out as a positive sign that I’m in a good game. And if I’m in a good game, why should I be annoyed?
Question 2: That’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought about it that way. So can you name something about poker that does annoy you?
Sunglasses annoy me. I put great emphasis on reading players, on tells.
When players put on sunglasses, they’re hiding from me and I can’t read their eyes or see their full expressions. I realize that some players wear sunglasses so that they can scrutinize opponents more closely without being obvious about it. But that’s no excuse for annoying me.
You might as well just come to the table in a big cardboard box with a caricature of a player painted on the front. Then we can have the online poker experience in real-world casinos. I love online poker, but it’s a different kind of game. We need to preserve the essence of traditional poker, where players socially interact. And sunglasses work against that. So, I say, ban them.
Question 3: What about players wearing headphones and listening to music at the table?
Well, let me tell you a story about that. I was sitting next to a player a few years ago, and I asked him what he was listening to. He put the headset near my ear, and it turned out to be one of my recorded lectures. It made me proud, but despite that surrealistic moment, headphones annoy me.
You see, I do a lot of talking when I’m involved in a pot. I want to sell hands, influence action, manipulate. And I can’t do that if an opponent isn’t listening to what I’m saying.
I also like to engage opponents in conversation, because that will occasionally provide me with a valuable tell. That’s the kind of game I play, and headphones spoil the fun.
Question 4: So, you don’t like it when opponents don’t listen to you. But what if some poor soul is simply hard of hearing?
Same thing. Very annoying.
Question 5: I think we better leave that alone and move on. You’ve often stated that players shouldn’t ridicule opponents for weak plays. Is that an annoyance?
Yes, a big one. When you criticize poor plays publicly, you’re humiliating weak opponents. For a fleeting moment’s worth of smug satisfaction, you’re making that opponent uncomfortable about playing poorly in the future. One thing you should never do is encourage opponents to play better. The secret is to praise and to giggle — never to ridicule.
Another related annoyance is skillful players who discuss sophisticated tactics at the table. When they debate the intricate nature of a decision just made, weaker opponents — meaning those who supply your profit — feel bewildered and realize they must try harder in order to win.
You’re making them feel uneasy about playing hands recklessly for fear of embarrassing themselves. Again, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.
Question 6: What about rules? Are there any that annoy you?
Several come to mind. But let’s just discuss the common rule that says you can’t expose any cards to opponents.
I agree with this rule if there are three or more players involved in a pot. But if you’re heads-up, the rule is ridiculous. Those are your cards, and you should be able to play them in any honest way that gives you an advantage.
I understand that allowing this could, on rare occasions, lead to abuse in a tournament. For instance, a player might show aces before the flop, ensuring that no one calls, thus avoiding the risk of being eliminated before moving up in the prize pool. While we might make an exception for that particular sort of play, the no-show rule is otherwise flawed.
I often like to spread my whole hand face up after someone bets into me. Then I’ll ask a provocative question: What would you do with these cards?
The response sometimes provides a powerful tell. Or I might show my entire hand to a single opponent and then check. Why? It’s because if that opponent is easy to read, I want him to know for sure what he’s betting into. If he’s unsure, he might give me a confused tell. But when he knows for certain whether he’s bluffing or betting a winning hand, chances are good that I will, too.
Question 7: Is there anything else that annoys you at poker?
Sure. But we’re running out of space, and this interview is over. — MC
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Favorites