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Don’t Take Life Too Seriously. None Of Us Get Out Alive.

by Bryan Devonshire |  Published: Jan 22, 2014

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Bryan DevonshireEvery single day I spend in a poker room, I hear somebody get really upset about something that happened on the poker table. I can’t help but wonder why these people continue to play a game that makes them so upset. It’s a game, the whole point is to enjoy playing it. It’s okay to get competitive, immersed in the game, but it’s not okay to act like a jerk when things don’t go your way. After a decade of playing this game professionally and four years of semi-pro through college, I have a pretty good grasp on what makes people lose their cool. Follow this guide to avoid looking like a worthless human being even if you get irate.

The most common reason for people to get upset at poker is due to not having enough money for the game that they’re playing. I regularly see players at $4-$8 take pots a hundred times more seriously than players at $400-$800, likely because that $4-$8 pot represents a hundred times more to that player’s net worth than the $400-$800 guy who has more money than the entire casino. Now, I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, I understand the need and desire to play the smallest game in the poker room. I once pawned my guitar for $300 to maintain buy-ins while working as a prop player. I get it. You shouldn’t play if the money means a lot to you, but if you do and lose it, don’t be a poor loser.

James Van Alstyne is the best at disappearing after busting. And the river is…ohhhh, a card that makes James the loser! Before you can say “good game”, James has popped out of his chair like he’s sitting on a spring, and is out the door like he’s late for a date. Hence, Vegas locals have coined “the JVA” as disappearing from a tournament (or a cash game) as quickly and silently as humanly possible, just like James Van Alstyne. “Yeah, he JVA’d right out of here after busting.” I’m not saying that James is one to lose his cool, I don’t think he’s that guy, but if he was I’d never know it because he’s never there after busting. If you’re one of these people who get upset and are liable to make loud noises, throw chairs, or do something otherwise regrettable, I highly recommend the JVA as a tool for cool down time. Get outside, away from the poker room and come back when you’re ready to continue playing a game.

Often, and sadly, I see dudes that are otherwise nice guys act like jerks in these situations. When they have plenty of money, I wonder what else is going on there. Either they actually don’t have plenty of money or some other stress is going on in life. If there’s something on your mind that is making you cranky enough to snap at dealers and players, then you shouldn’t be playing poker. There’s also the fact that it’s impossible to play your best poker when the stresses of life impede your ability to think strategically and in a poker mindset. Do yourself and your table mates a favor and sit today out. You’re sick emotionally and that negative energy is bad for both you and those around you.

It is never okay to berate a dealer. The dealer does not control the cards, the dealer did not screw you on the river. If you believe that the dealer is out to get you, then why are you making the dealer not like you? Isn’t that kind of like yelling at the people making your fast food?

My first paycheck job was at Carl’s Jr. This lady walks in one evening, delivers about eight f-bombs for each employee, makes sure everybody in the joint knows she doesn’t want any f’n pickles, and last time she came into this f’n establishment she got pickles. Turns out the lady drove away with a hamburger and an inch of pickles on a fresh sesame seed bun.

Furthermore, it is never okay to berate other players. It’s right up there with bullying. Any time I hear anybody talk about what a bad player that guy is, I instantly know that they’re a terrible player and a worse person. If you’re a good and winning poker player, you know that it’s foolish to make your opponents better, or to piss off your customers. If your opponent is a recreational player, then they’re there to have fun, and having anybody talk crap about you is not fun. That player will either get better so they don’t get berated next time or they simply won’t return because the game isn’t fun.

Nobody likes a bad winner either. Very few situations merit celebration. The greatest celebration I ever gave was with two tables left in the WSOP main event, when my tens held for a monster stack. I couldn’t help it, it was the biggest hand of my poker career and likely will remain so. I distinctly remember feeling bad about it about two-thirds of the way through, because those chips came from my colleague and, like I would learn later, going bust with two tables left in the main sucks, and you don’t want to see anybody celebrating that. I was once sitting next to Barry Greenstein during a WPT event before the money for sure. Behind us came a celebration. Barry leans over and says, “that’s the sound of money moving from a good player to a bad player.”

I feel like it’s pretty easy to not act like a jerk. Even if I want to, treating others poorly never does anything good for me. Control your emotions at the poker table and treat other people with respect.

Lastly, it’s important for us as poker players to keep others accountable. If somebody’s berating the dealer, ask them why they’re treating the dealer poorly. If they’re talking bad about another player, ask them why they want others to get better if they’re so good. I don’t care how big of a fish somebody is, that doesn’t give anyone license to behave like a waste of human flesh. We’re all here to play a game, and the game is less fun when people aren’t fun to be around. ♠

Bryan Devonshire has been a professional poker player for nearly a decade. With over $2m in tournament earnings, he also plays high stakes mixed games against the best players in the world. Follow him on Twitter @devopoker.