The Shark’s Dilemma
by Andrew Brokos | Published: Jul 28, '12
When I was in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to get breakfast with an old poker friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. We used to run into each other at Foxwoods from time to time and get together during the WSOP each summer, but he hadn’t been out in recent years, so it’d been a while since we’d seen each other. He told me a story that I enjoyed and gave me permission to post it here.
My friend, whom I’ll call Victor, works in venture capital, but he’s a pretty decent poker player. He’s been beating $5/$10 NLHE live games for years now and just crushed again this summer. So he’s not, generally speaking, a fish. A few years ago, though, he was playing a $50/$100 game during the WSOP, and he admits that in retrospect he was the fish in that game and was in fact the only reason it was running.
Despite that, he was up a few thousand dollars when his wife showed up to see how he was doing. Victor’s wife has, possibly by design, never grasped how exactly poker works. When he wins, she looks at it as free money, without considering past and future losses. So she comes over to ask how he’s doing, and he tells her he’s up five or six thousand dollars. She gets that look in her eye. “Great! There’s a purse I was looking at that costs $4000….”
Now the whole table is watching and listening to this interaction, and Victor tells me that while he is thinking about how to negotiate this with the wife (how much for a purse? is this going to be an anniversary present?), he also notices everyone else in the game exchanging looks. One of the regulars volunteers, “It’s OK, you can take money off of your stack if you need to.”
At the time, he said, he was so embarrassed about how much his wife was spending on a purse that he didn’t appreciate what was going on with the other players. Now, though, he realizes that they realized that if they didn’t let him take money off of the table, he was going to quit and the game would break. Their look was an unspoken acknowledgement of the situation and agreement to let him pick up the money.
In addition to being an amusing story, I think this contains at least two lessons for those who play poker for substantial money:
1. Your significant other needs to understand the basics so that s/he won’t be unduly excited or alarmed about the sums of money involved.
2. Even if they aren’t as good as you are at poker, the fish aren’t stupid. Nobody wants to feel like a mark, so if you want to keep playing poker with someone, don’t treat him that way.