I witnessed an astonishingly rare site a few day ago. I was in the middle of an 8-16 session, and the table was typical: lots of raises, re-raises and loose calls. As such, the pots were very big, players’ good hands were regularly being run down, and nobody ever wanted to fold. These tables tend to drive emotions high, as every hand could make or break you, and the “best hand” seems to win far less frequently.
As a result, the rare occurrence I experienced was this: The entire table was on tilt.
Now, how is this possible, you might ask? I asked myself the same question. It stands to reason that if one to six players are losing vast amounts of money, it means that three to eight players are racking these losses. And the casino rake notwithstanding, this is absolutely the case. So how can a table with nine players have nine angry losers?
The simple answer is, it can’t.
But that doesn’t mean that three or four of these players can’t perceive themselves as losers.
I wasn’t sure if what I was witnessing was truly happening. But once I confirmed that, yes, indeed, all nine of us are steaming, I asked myself how this could be. Then I began closely monitoring who was winning the pots. During a ten-hand stretch, for instance, two players played every single hand. Between the two of them, they won six pots. Of course, they also each lost four pots, a few of them in ugly run-down fashion. These two players, while monetarily ahead over this stretch, did not stop with the angry attitude, poor play or the incessant victimized complaining.
As I thought more about it, this phenomenon fits beautifully with my pessimistic view of poker-player-mentality: “It’s all about me, listen to me, talk about me, I know the best play, I should win every hand!” If one thinks they should win every single hand (and this happens frequently though subconsciously), it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that this same sociopath will feel short-changed when it doesn’t happen.
These unjustifiable steamers also show their true colors when they lose a particularly gross pot. It happens all the time: A guy, who plays like shit, gets his Pocket Aces cracked by 10-7 suited. He then goes on to win four of the next seven pots with various crappy hands, putting him financially ahead of where he started. But is he thinking about his wins? Of course not! He’s still complaining about the Pocket-Aces-loss. He doesn’t seem to realize that it doesn’t make any damn difference with what hand he wins the money! People absolutely love to play the victim!
The whole table is on tilt because six players are losing badly, and three players, while winning, feel victimized that they aren’t winning enough, or that they aren’t winning the right pots.
The psychology of poker players is incredible.
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Jacob "Jaymind" Westlin is a semi-professional limit hold'em player with a strong, sarcastic wit. Jaymind also frequently contributes to Minnesota Poker Magazine's monthly publication. Email Jaymind at email@example.com