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Behavior At The Table: Part 4

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Mar 24, 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.

We have covered a lot of ground in this series of articles. I hope that you have appreciated them all, and can look at yourself critically in view of what I have written. All of us are less than perfect, and all of us can improve our behavior. At the table, at home, at work… everywhere. For certain I am just as guilty as any of you, and have misbehaved at the table.

One of the most important things that makes any game better is a good pace of play. Slow games with lots of tanking, or lots of time wasted telling players it is their turn, grind down the pace of play. And in turn, this grinds away a lot of the fun.

The new proper term for the kind of player you want in your game is a “fun player.” It is obviously impolite to call them a fish, or a donkey (even more so in front of them). But “fun player” is more than just a friendlier term. It better describes who they are, and why they are there.

Anyone who is a weak player, whether a novice, or someone with experience who just hasn’t bothered to learn smart strategy, is exactly who you want at your table. And a player like that is there to have fun. If the pace is too slow, it is no longer fun. They will quit sooner, and be less likely to return, which will cost you a lot of your potential profit.

Therefore, you have to work to keep the game moving. Make sure you’re ready when it is your turn. Know the action before it gets to you. If you are sitting there watching a movie on your phone, reading a book, or scrolling through Twitter, now the dealer has to alert you to your turn. You don’t know who’s called, folded, or raised, or anything else.

First, we waste extra time getting your attention, then we waste time while you catch up in the hand. Even worse, sometimes you do something silly, like throw out $5 to call the blind, and then the dealer says no, you can’t do that, somebody over here raised to $20. Now you try to pull back your $5 and fold, and then we have to call over the floor, wait for their arrival, tell them what happened, and wait for their ruling. What a total buzzkill for the game.

I’m guilty of sometimes being on my phone. I check emails, catch up on Twitter, message with people, and more. But I don’t do this while I have a live hand. And I try to make it a point to always put my phone down as soon as the dealer starts to pitch cards for the next hand. This way, I can do some of these errands, and not slow the game down.

Even better, try to help keep the game moving. If you get stuck with the guy watching a movie, alert him to his turn before it gets to him. That way, he can look at his cards, and be prepared in time.

Also, yes, sometimes you face a tough decision and need extra time. However, most decisions do not require much time, are not for huge sums of money, or huge amounts of tournament chips. Please do not tank for 30 seconds on each decision just because you want to avoid giving off timing tells. First, it really doesn’t help. Second, you become the annoying focus of everyone at the table.

Even if you are gaining some tiny edge with this behavior, what you lose from it is even greater. Your slow pace will cause others to play slower. Now you are getting in fewer hands per hour, which if you are a winning player means you win less. More importantly, creating this annoying atmosphere makes the game no fun. And again, this will cause the fun players to quit sooner, and return less often.

Another annoying behavior is frequent walking. By this, I mean those players who constantly get up from the table (this only applies to cash games), and sit out for an orbit or two, maybe more. Most players prefer a full table. Whether or not they are correct in that preference is irrelevant. If frequent walkers are making the game short-handed, those who don’t like this get annoyed. Again, being annoyed is not fun, and the mood of the game is worsened.

I understand that sometimes we need to get up for a bit. Whether to use the restroom, get some fresh air, whatever. But I see players out there who regularly skip at least one orbit per hour. Heck, I’ve seen players who spend more time away from the table than at it. Whatever reason you have for doing this, it is very impolite to the rest of us. Please, try to reduce, or better yet, eliminate the walking. After all, how can you win if you’re not even in the game?

Finally, you have to actually work to make the game fun. It is great if you do everything to keep the game moving. If you can, also get involved with your fellow players. Talk to them, if they want to talk. Sports, weather, celebrity gossip, good places to eat, anything that will make the game more fun. If this just isn’t you, then don’t try to be something you are not. But if you can, make the game a multi-faceted entertainment event for the fun players.

This is why some players get invited to those juicy private games, and why some do not. The host may avoid inviting winning players to make the game better for themselves. But if you are a winning player whom everyone loves to play with, you will still have a good shot at being invited. And even in a casino poker game, players like this attract the fun players to their table, and the fun players stay longer when at their table.

You can be a fun player to be around, while not being a so-called “fun player” yourself. And isn’t that the point anyway? Why play, if you’re not having fun?

So 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.