Play to Win, Not the Other to Lose

This is a guest entry submitted by a good friend and poker buddy.  Some background – the author and I have both played multiple times in local, live tournaments with a player who can most charitably be called a jerk.  Many of you have probably played with someone like this:  a very good player himself but chirping constantly (and not in a friendly or social manner); always telling you how you misplayed the hand you just lost but how he got sucked out on if he loses (and by the way, what a terrible play it was for you to make that call in the first place) and sometimes outright guaranteeing that he’ll have all of your chips before the tournament is over.  The more he drinks, the nastier he gets.

Here goes:

The setting – halfway through a live tournament with 50 starting players that only pays out the top 3 (with first place paying $1,200, second place $800 and third place $500).  The average stack is about 52K chips with me holding about 55K and the blinds at 1/2K.

The jerk limps in from UTG+2 and is called by the SB and the BB (me) holding 6s-8s.  The flop comes 3-5-7 rainbow, giving me an up-and-down straight draw.  SB and BB both check and the jerk goes all in with just over 38K chips.  Small blind folds so it’s my turn to act.  As I’m going over the hand in my head, the jerk is chirping that he could have a big pocket pair or two over cards or it might be a stone cold bluff.  This is really irritating.

Going over the possibilities, I see three likely alternatives: high pocket pair (I’m behind 65/35); pocket pair that hit a set (behind 75/25); two over cards (coin flip).  I just don’t smell bluff, and putting his obnoxious behavior aside, this jerk is too strong of a player to make this big of an overbet on a bluff.  At this point in the tournament, I have an above average chip stack and reasonable blinds so there is no need to pick two cards to risk 70% of my stack on what I believe to be a coin flip at the very best.  The obvious, no, the only move to make is to fold my cards and continue to play solid poker.

Unfortunately, what came out of my mouth was “Call.”  The jerk turned over pocket 10’s and after neither the turn nor the river made my open-ended straight, I had less than ten big blinds left.  I exited the tournament a little later after a particularly brutal hand on which a non-jerk hit a full house on the river to take down my flush.

It wasn’t until thinking about it afterwards that I realized that it wasn’t the 38K chips that I was after on that hand – it was the opportunity to knock the jerk out of the tournament.  I ignored my gut, math, skill and everything else I know (or think I know) from a lifetime of poker and took my eye off the prize (winning) because I was distracted by another small, petty and stupid goal.  I will try never to do that again and will be a better player and person because of it.


KKingDavid’s note:  Jerk made the final table of this tournament but did not cash.

Year-to-date online results:  + $8,462

Month-to-date online results:  + $1,378

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