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A Parliament of Murders

by David Downing |  Published: Oct 01, 2009


There’s nothing I like better than a good stereotype, especially when it lives up to expectation, like a clueless Brit in an online cash game or a skilled Scandinavian suddenly exploding into a torrent of pointless abuse in chat.

Collective nouns are what the grammarians used to encapsulate these wisdoms and make them official. Our great friends, the Victorian, gentlemen scientists, were the masters of this kind of thing, and most of our collective nouns, certainly the most entertaining of them, come from these times.

In that proud tradition, I’ve tried to create my own contribution to collective nounery, which hopefully will have wider adoption than my damned if you do, damned if you don’t (DIYDDIYD). One of which I am especially proud is unfortunately not repeatable in polite company — it is a c-word for traffic wardens. I think the beauty of this is it is evocative and descriptive. In the world of poker, I have created two collective nouns; a degenerate of live players and an imbecility of online players.


I think the first is clear. Not only are live players, pro rata, worse than their online counterparts, but they are more likely to do exceedingly dumb things with their bankroll. Many online winners are simply grinders, winning six figures but basically living at home with their mothers. Live players are much more likely to fritter away a third of their roll at an executive lap dancer bar; get into a proposition bet with a richer counterpart that they (a) can’t win (b) can’t afford © are too dumb and proud to drop out of; and play casino games or sports betting in an effort to “get out of it” after a poker session.

Now, I’m no Scrooge when it comes to splashing the cash, but when you are a pro, your bankroll is not just cash, but the machinery in your factory that prints you money. In communist speak, it is the means of production. If you sell the production line, where does the money come from? More live players have gone broke from this kind of meta-game self-harming than any other disaster. Falling in love with the romance of gambling can often lead to heartbreak.

Online players, technically speaking, are often very clever and very successful. But why is it they can act with all the common sense of an inbred, ugly stepchild, locked in the cellar? I’ve already regaled the constant reader with the fiasco of seven-card stud eight-or-better on PokerStars, where the biggest winners in the game voluntarily turned off the faucet on their money hose in a misguided effort to increase the stakes. This is not an isolated incident.

There used to be a lot of activity on an obscure poker forum, which was surprising as the player the site was named after never used to post there, and it basically became a haunt for limit high stakes specialist Dan Druff, amongst others. After a long period of sensibility, Dan started to fall for the “doomswitch” myth.

This was pretty embarrassing, especially for a guy who had won huge chunks online. Since then, there have been scandals involving superuser accounts, which is normally a sign of a desperate poker site, and badly designed software where the geeks have been let loose without supervision. The doomswitch basically has everyone beating the designated player, for pretty obscure reasons of liquidity or game stability or the like. It was a bit like being in a room with a favourite elderly uncle, everyone happy, until he starts shouting racist, Alzheimer-driven abuse, and peeing himself.

The forum madness continues to this day. Time passed, and as the current surge in pot-limit Omaha kicked in, the “imbecility of online players” factor kicked in. Suddenly, higher stakes players didn’t want to slum with their lower stakes brethren. They wanted their own place to hang. The fact that the volume for postings in a day barely fills a webpage on the current most popular online forum didn’t matter; the fact that no one particularly decent was posting higher stakes stuff didn’t matter; the fact that the uber-stakes guys, who these arrivistes clearly wanted to rub shoulders with, are notoriously the worst posters on the net didn’t matter. So eventually it was made so. And the result? Exactly the same volumes as before. And a nice and quiet high stakes pot-limit Omaha forum.

If only these online guys played as badly as they think. Spade Suit

David has played poker all over the UK for the better part of a decade. Originally a tournament player, now focused on cash play and almost entirely on the Internet for the last three years, he makes a healthy second income playing a wide range of games. David is also an Omaha instructor for, a leading source of online poker instructional videos.