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Be Nice

Shape up or expect to be shipped out

by Michael Wiesenberg |  Published: Oct 18, 2005


Those players making their first move from online poker to a brick-and-mortar cardroom (b&m) may get a rude shock. The kind of behavior that some seem to think is permissible online is not only bad manners in a b&m, but may get them booted out.

I was in a $3-$6 online game when a male-chauvinist sore loser told the female who had just beaten him two hands in a row to perform an act that is physically impossible for higher life-forms. She responded, "You're an insecure little man." He then called her a descriptive name usually reserved for females that is never used in polite mixed company, and challenged her to play heads-up $40-$80, and she typed, "You really do have self-image issues, don't you?"

Of course, she didn't have to say anything. The best way to handle inappropriate remarks online is to ignore them, or, if it really becomes excessive and seems to be hurting the game, report the perpetrator to the site's support department.

Unfortunately, improper behavior often cannot be curtailed online. Some sites filter chat, so that profanity gets translated into asterisk-filled words, but habitual abusers easily learn how to get around that by spelling epithets phonetically or by inserting spaces or other characters between letters. For example, if a miscreant types "badword," what ends up in the chatbox might be "b******." But if he types "baadwurd," "b a d w o r d," or "b-a-d-w-o-r-d," the software isn't "smart" enough to filter it out, and what he types goes uncensored to the chatbox. And to complicate the situation, some sites seem not to care what players "say" to each other, not censoring any language, no matter how profane, disruptive, or insulting, and not responding to complaints.

Those who employ such tricks should be warned that the tactics don't work in b&ms. You can't disguise abuse in person by pronouncing or spelling it differently, and most cardrooms have a zero-tolerance policy. In most world-class tournaments, personal abuse often results in a timeout, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. And that means that during that time, the offender's chips are blinded off in turn. In some tournaments, the use of some words, like the "f-word," results in immediate expulsion from the event – with no refund of the buy-in and no court of last appeal.

And it's not just tournaments. Most cardrooms also will not put up with abusive behavior in ring games. It used to be that throwing cards and tantrums was tolerated, particularly when such behavior occurred in a "producer," someone around whom a game could be built because he – yes, sadly, it was usually a he – created lots of action and could be counted on to sit for a long time and throw off a lot of money. So what if he tossed cards and tore up decks? So what if he called the other players names? No one complained because the table stayed full, with a long list of players waiting to get in and get some of that "free money." For this reason, players and management were willing to tolerate behavior in some that they wouldn't in those who made a living off the games – that is, those who could not be counted on to bring in other players. This double standard is now considered outmoded in most cardrooms. They realize that tolerating abusive behavior from producers might help fill tables for short periods of time, but it isn't good for the cardroom in the long run because it drives off regulars who don't want to play in a place with such an attitude and who don't want to play in games that are no fun. So now, some cardrooms first give a warning for any inappropriate behavior, perhaps ask a violator to take a break the second time, and ask him to cash out the third time. Some might warn about antagonistic behavior but not tolerate profanity even once. That is, say the wrong word even once, and you're out.

Those who are used to heaping vituperation unpunished upon their online opponents would do well to realize ahead of time that such activity won't fly in b&ms. And they might be doing themselves a favor by ceasing such behavior online.

Michael Wiesenberg's The Ultimate Casino Guide is available at fine bookstores and online. Send remarks, requests, and remonstrances to