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Table Talk

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: Apr 01, 2007

One of the reasons for poker's unending ability to fascinate and entertain us is the fact that it epitomises everything to be found at the core of what it is to be human, particularly when played by a regular "school" of players. Unlike the sterility of a cyberspace game, in a "real" game, you'll find drama and depression, teasing and taunts, and sometimes the dark side of human nature will manifest itself, too. Watch any episode of High Stakes Poker to see what I mean.

For many years, the Victoria Casino, London, hosted the "Big Game." It had a nominal buy-in of 1,000 and consisted of alternate rounds of lowball (seven-card stud, in which A-2-3-4-6 is the best low) and Omaha. There was a regular pool of about 30 players who played there three days every week, and the game generated phenomenal action. Naturally, there were big winners and big losers, but because everyone knew everyone, many amusing and some very unfunny things happened. Here are a few of them.

One evening, a very colourful character, A, who played a fast and furious game, was "stuck" for about 14,000 when suddenly his head dropped to his chest, his body went rigid, and he stopped breathing. Naturally, the whole table was very shocked at this dramatic event, but one person in particular, B, went a "whiter shade of pale," because he had, over the previous couple of hours, loaned the rigid A about 15,000. Without doubt, everyone there thought A had had a heart attack. He lay unmoving for about four or five minutes while people rushed around asking if there was a doctor in the house and calling for an ambulance. Finally, the colour returned to Mr. B's ashen face after A's head rose from his chest and he chirped, "Whose bet is it?" He explained that he hadn't eaten all day and just felt a bit weak and had fainted. If anyone was on the verge of having a heart attack there that day, it was Mr. B.

It goes without saying that when you win a pot, you should not gloat at the loser or do anything disrespectful toward him. After all, next time, you might be in his shoes. However, one day, a regular in the game, a pompous, know-it-all busybody who felt it was his duty to insert his boring opinion into every conversation even if it had nothing to do with him, shocked the table, after he won a pot, by saying, "You know, there's one thing that has never happened to me at the poker table, and I wish it did. I'd love to win a big pot off someone and then watch him burst into tears." What a sick thing to say. Naturally, no one had any comment to add to this stupid statement.

On a similar theme, several years ago in Dublin, a certain very unpopular player, who subsequently moved to London, bluffed a pot and then rubbed his opponent's nose in it by showing the bluff. It was not very nice. A few months later, the guy who lost the pot was playing blackjack at £5 a time. A hand reached over his shoulder to put £200 on his box. He turned around to verify whose money it was, and, indeed, it belonged to Mr. Bluffer. The croupier dealt him a 10 and an 8. "Card, please," said the player, and he proceeded to bust out, causing total apoplexy behind him. It was Machiavelli who said that revenge is a dish best eaten cold, and this was a perfect example of that.

On another occasion, Bob Ciaffone was playing in the £250 Omaha game at the Vic. Everyone knew who he was, a highly respected author of the only book (at that time) on pot-limit Omaha. He won a huge pot with a hand so ugly that only a mother could love it. Of course, everyone saw this heap of garbage that he had played. One wag could not resist asking the question, "On what page of the book will we find that hand, Bob?"

To Bob's credit, he replied, "I wasn't stuck when I wrote the book."

Now, you can't be a part of this black humour whilst you're on the Net. spade

Lucy has been playing poker for 20 years and has won more than $1 million in tournament prize money all over the world. She prefers playing pot-limit Omaha and pot-limit seven-card stud eight-or-better.