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April 11, 2005

Poker with a Conscience

Posted at April 11, 2005 11:40 AM in Personal Poker Experiences , by Greedy Gecko.

I was recently in Las Vegas, playing some low-stakes no limit ring games ($1-$2) and experienced something unexpected. To frame this story, let me give a little background on my playing experiences.

I played poker casually in high-school, and throughout college would visit the local Indian gaming casino with friends. This was all small-stakes play and there was never a profit motive involved, it was just a way to pass the time. Recently, within the last couple of years, I have realized how profitable poker can be and enjoy supplementing my professional income with online poker winnings.

Being recently in Vegas, this was my first opportunity to play live poker since I began taking the game seriously. Being more accustomed to the fast pace of playing multiple tables simultaneously, the slower live game took some taking used to.

On the second day of the trip, I sat in with a group of young, aggressive players. I wasn’t dealt many playable hands, and was down from the blinds and the occasional small pots I got involved in. About an hour into the session, an older man was walked to the table by his wife, who gave him a kiss on the cheek and wished him luck. Seated two chairs to my right, he bought in for $100. Two hands later, he was down to about $90, winning a small pot and then losing a bigger one to an overpair.

Well my turn finally came, as I looked down from the big blind and saw a pair of beautiful ladies looking back at me, one of diamonds and one of spades. One player put in a minimum raise, the old man called, and I put in a raise to $12. The initial raise folded and I was called by the old man. The flop was AJ6 of spades; not exactly the best flop for my hand. With nearly $30 in the pot, I led out with a $15 bet and was quickly called. The turn is a queen of spades. While that gives me a set, it puts four flush cards on the board and makes a possible straight. I know that I visibly grimaced when this card hit the board, thinking that the poker gods were throwing the set right in my face, almost to taunt me. I intended to put no more money in the pot, and quickly checked. The old man studied me for a second, and quickly checked after me. Perhaps he didn’t have the flush either!? The river was the remaining queen in the deck, causing my eyes nearly to jump out of their sockets when I say my quads. Believing my opponent to not have a spade, or a low one at best, I thought I should bet gingerly to extract at least some money from him and bet $15. Clearly I was shocked when he announced all-in.

Now I didn’t intend to slow-roll him, but it took me a couple of seconds to process his move, and my first instinct was to think about what he could have. Although possible, I wasn’t really worried about the royal flush. If I am going to lose to that hand, then so be it. Anyway, obviously I called and turned up my quads. He disappointedly showed a K10 for the straight, and mucked his hand.

With that, he hung his head in defeat and walked out of the card room. He was clearly a tourist looking for a little fun. I don’t know whether $100 meant a lot to the old man, but it certainly didn’t mean a lot to me. I just really felt bad, as he had come for a good time and perhaps a chance of winning some money, and received neither. He was in and out of the poker room in less than 10 minutes with his buy-in gone.

What I thought was unusual, is the sympathy I felt at the live game, as compared to the utter joy and excitement I get from taking others’ money online. I get perverse pleasure thinking that they are banging their hands on the keyboard with frustration, and then sulkily grabbing some cheese puffs and retiring defeated to the couch for some television. Compassion or empathy is nonexistent when I play online.

Needless to say, since I find online play more convenient and profitable, I will stick to it as the primary form of poker play. Also, having had this experience, I enjoy my victories a lot more.

The Greedy Gecko