Player typing is covered in every beginner text on poker. In most texts, some version of a 2×2 matrix ranging from tight to loose and aggressive to passive is outlined. In others, like Arnold Synder’s bible on how to play short format tournaments, The Poker Tournament Formula, a wide variety of sub-types are identified, from Ball-Cap Kids to Flush Masters. Although some writers delve into the implications of personality, the primary focus is on the playing style of these sub-types.
The general personality of other players, beyond their playing style, certainly impacts my live poker experience. I’m lucky that my primary cardroom is largely populated with very pleasant and entertaining characters. I generally treat them all well, as they do me. I’m there to have a good time and to play.
However, I have run into a few personality types at the table who test my patience and ability to hold my tongue (which sadly is not a strength of mine in general). Here are the types I find particularly troublesome:
- “Joy, Joy, Joy…..Rage” A couple of hours of pleasant, engaging conversation with this seemingly stable individual is shattered when a two-outer hits the river. While some players are chronically irritable, at least you know what you are getting into. With these players, the bait-and-switch is jarring. It always takes me a couple of hands to regain my bearings after the fist hits the felt.
- “I’m only 19, but I know more about poker than Dan Harrington and Daniel Negreanu combined” Oh the informative lectures this player will share from the pages of their most recently read poker book. They’ve mastered the words “donk” and “fish” and will explain at length how your last move was technically wrong, and likely a sign of your limited intelligence. Twenty minutes later they will make the same move, and expound upon how it was brilliantly executed in their hands.
- “I never get good cards” There are a smattering of regulars who roll their eyes at 95% of the hands they are dealt. If they are in a seat on either side of the dealer, they flash their cards to the dealer with a look of disgust and accusation. Their cards are folded with ever-increasing force. The bad news, is that you will need to work on repelling their consistent negative mojo. The good news is that their hand range is pretty easy to identify.
- “People usually walk away when I incessantly talk, but you’re cornered” Probably my most challenging type. I am fairly social at the table, so I appear open to conversation. However, I admit to getting fatigued by the manic talkers who fill 20 breathless minutes on just about any topic. Most of these people are not bad people, so I feel compelled to remain outwardly pleasant. But inside, after about an hour I am debating whether puncturing my own eardrums would be worth it just to make the noise stop.
- “I’ll have a little poker with my binge drinking, please” We have a player at our cardroom who stacks his completed beer cups in his drink holder throughout his session. Now for this guy, whose tolerance is the stuff of Roman myth, these cups scream “I am into my 7th beer and still outplaying you”! However, with most other heavy drinkers, you see the range of behaviors you’d expect: from players who forget that they are in the hand (or perhaps even in a poker room), to the sloppy “I love you man!” expressions of poker bonding, to those looking to break the tedium with a fistfight. Pray your table breaks soon.
Encountering a wide range of personalities is actually one of the things I like best about playing poker. Even the players above make it a richer experience. But I have to admit, these guys test a lot more than my poker skills.
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