While playing at the poker table I often take notes about the action by texting myself thoughts on the session. That way, when I choose to write an article, I simply need to look through my phone to remind myself on the details of my ideas. The photo here is a screenshot of my recent poker note-taking, and I share it only because I’ve observed a clear pattern. What I noticed is nothing groundbreaking, I’ve always known I was a curmudgeon. But to see it so plainly in writing made me laugh. The pattern I observed is simple: I began every text with the phrase, “I hate…”
I can be such a complaining whiner. That’s what makes me, me, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to change it; my cynicism defines my very spirit. That said, I thought it’d be nice to shift the focus briefly from what I hate to what I love. I did some serious thinking and came up with my top ten list of things I love at the poker table. So as to not completely break character, however, you’ll notice that even my list of loves includes some jabs at the stupid people surrounding us at all times at the poker table. Let’s begin!
#10 I love cool dealers
You can always tell when your dealer is a poker player himself. He immediately recognizes the grossest of plays, and the particularly cool dealers might even give a little comment to endear himself to the better players at the table. ”Whoa, two-outer, huh? Nice call.” Cool dealers will always laugh with you about the game and its crazy intricacies. A sense of humor is the best attribute of poker dealers. I like these guys, and attempt to tip them well assuming I win a hand during their half-hour stay.
#9 I love watching good players figure things out
Although, financially speaking, it isn’t ideal to be surrounded by good players, I do enjoy observing their mental wheels spin from the sidelines. It can become monotonous watching idiots act on idiot instincts time and time again. When you see somebody actually working through the details of a hand, it’s fun. I like comparing their conclusions to my own deductions about the action. Good poker entertains me more than dummy poker (that is, if I’m not involved).
#8 I love cool chip stacks
Most people at the limit hold’em table either don’t have enough money or don’t have enough desire to build a cool looking chip stack. Every once in awhile, however, you’ll be fortunate enough to see that guy with $4,000 who refuses to color-up (awesome move, by the way; coloring-up is for ninnies), but instead builds his wealth into an impressive tower of yellow or red discs. I, myself, prefer height to the simpler horizontal movement of multiple small stacks.
#7 I love sharing a knowing glance with other good players
The pot is huge. The board, in order, is K-Q-8-2-2, and action has been at least three-bet on every street. The river is heads-up, and action gets four-bet. One player turns over K-Q, but loses to his opponent who holds A-2. I folded my hand pre-flop but have been observing the action closely. What do I do upon seeing the A-2 scoop the pot? I immediately look across the table at the only other good player in the game, and he is miraculously simultaneously look right back at me. We share the same understanding look with our eyes wide and our heads shaking. We simply want validation of the gross we just witnessed, and we know where to find it. There’s something so satisfying about knowing that at least one other player at the table recognizes how truly inexplicable and disgusting some of these hands can be.
#6 I love value-betting
I’m always trying to improve my river play. There’s money to be made, obviously, by determining whether you’ll get paid off with mediocrity. It’s easy to check your nothing and bet your monsters. Real satisfaction comes from betting your 10-10 on the river with a K-J-7-6-2 board, and getting paid off with A-7. I’m getting better at this, and am rarely more personally fulfilled than when I correctly determine the right timing for a value-bet.
#5 I love space
Being crammed next to fat, sweaty, stupid, jabber-mouth men for many consecutive hours is my least favorite aspect of poker. I can’t even sit in the five-seat without getting up every eight minutes to alleviate my claustrophobia. I don’t like rubbing elbows and shoulders with these strange men. Also, under-table spacing is equally important. Some players simply can’t determine where to put their legs. Or, more likely, they just don’t care, and I suffer the consequences of politeness and self-awareness. I love the corner seats, 2-3-7-8, and when I can spread myself out, I play more focused poker.
#4 I love humility
It’s very refreshing when one player sincerely says to another, “Nice play.” It’s so nice to know that, once in awhile, people can separate their emotions from their logical brain and just recognize when somebody else did something well. And I don’t enjoy this humility for my own validation; I don’t even care if the sincerity is directed toward me. I simply appreciate when somebody steps outside the overwhelming norm which is, “You screwed me! How did you get so lucky on the river? What an awful play!” Humility, and even a little self-deprecation, are great character attributes.
#3 I love to be left alone
Duh. This requires almost no elaboration. Plainly stated, I like to anonymously and quietly sit at a poker table and be able to clearly think through my session’s strategy without the distraction of everybody else’s boring ass problems. I don’t care if you lost with Ace-King four times today. That’s the least interesting fact anybody’s ever uttered to another human being. Be quiet and let me think. Which brings me to my next point…
#2 I love thinking
Thinking is great! The strategic aspect of poker is the best part about it! I relish the opportunity to consider a hand from multiple angles, from years of experience, from two hours of player-knowledge, or without any prior information whatsoever. Every hand I’ve ever played in my entire life is unique. No two are alike. There’s something so poetic about that and it’s what draws me to poker. I love when a non-poker playing friend will ask you a question like, “I had Ace-five in the big-blind and somebody raised. What would you do?” The answer every single time will be, “It depends.” It’s an unsatisfying answer to your friend, but it’s the truth for a thoughtful poker player. There are too many factors to consider, and considering them is precisely what I love doing.
And my absolute favorite thing at the poker table is…
#1 I love making money
Well, obviously. This is the only real purpose of the professional poker player. Satisfaction from all nine previous loves are hallow without actual money. I wouldn’t enjoy thinking, humility, or space if I lost my ass every time I play cards. These things all stem from the successful execution of strategy and leaving the poker room with more money than when you entered. There’s nothing I love more than making a consistent, reliable, ongoing, completely self-earned profit off nothing more than my own tactical brain.
TWITTER: JayMindPokerJacob "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