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Player Behavior: Some Critics Are Also Idiots

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Feb 10, 2021

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Greg Raymer Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at @FossilMan, or send me a message at info@fossilmanpoker.com.

Now that we have vaccines being distributed, it seems the end to this pandemic nightmare is at least finally in sight. Please, continue to be safe. In a war, you don’t get yourself killed the day before they sign a peace treaty. While live poker is being played in many places now, we are going to see a huge resurgence in the cardrooms once case counts start to go down, and many of us who have been avoiding live poker return to the tables. I am especially excited to get back out there on the tournament trail, and win some more big-field MTTs!

But since so many of us have avoided live games, either by playing online or not at all, this seems like a good time to once again talk about table etiquette and behavior. Let’s face it, there are many of us who could do better in this regard.

For now, I want to talk about criticism. While I was occasionally guilty of this early in my poker career, I have been able to almost entirely avoid giving a player criticism of their play for many years now. There will be times when a player asks for feedback on how they played a hand. Obviously, in such a case, it is perfectly acceptable to answer their question. However, even if you are going to tell them they made a huge mistake, it’s important to try to say it nicely.

There is no need, even when asked, to belittle a player by saying something like, “That was the stupidest call I’ve ever seen.” Instead, maybe something more like, “Well, the pot odds weren’t really there, and it seemed very unlikely the other player was bluffing.”

The real crime, and we all see this fairly often, is when the guy who just lost the pot tells their opponent how badly they played the hand. We’ve all heard statements such as, “How could you make that call?” or, “Only a moron would play those cards.” These comments add nothing beneficial to the game. All they do is possibly teach a weak player how to play better, or even worse, motivate them to quit!

Less-skilled players are usually there to have fun. Being criticized is not fun. If they truly made a bad decision, isn’t this exactly the kind of player you want in your game? Why chase them away?

I have taught a lot of live seminars over the last 16 years, probably 100 or more. I’ve often told my students that when you criticize your opponent, you are being an a**hole, but it’s possible that you’re showing everyone how much of an idiot you are as well. Of the thousands of times I’ve heard a player criticize their opponent, I would estimate about half the time the criticism ends up clearly displaying their lack of understanding, or even ignorance about the game.

If someone asks for feedback, and is politely shown where they could improve, no problem. But anytime someone offers unsolicited criticism at the table, they are crossing the line. Even if that criticism is accurate, and their opponent clearly made a mistake, whenever someone behaves this way they are only hurting themselves and the game they are in. There are no exceptions.

I know it hurts when an opponent gets lucky, and wins a huge pot that “should” have gone to you. It hurts when it happens to me as well. During this pandemic, there have been many times it has happened as I’ve played online. And when it happens, I’ve said out loud what a f***ing idiot the other player was, and how stupidly they played the hand. That’s fine, in my home, where they can’t hear me. But we all need to remember we can’t do this anymore once we return to playing live games.

It’s time we all learned to keep our mouths shut. Or, if we can do so with a semi-believable honest voice, just say, “Nice hand,” and try to focus on the next deal.
Have fun, and play smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.