Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Politics and Poker

Should politics be discussed at the poker table?
Really, no.
A thousand times, no.
This story took place on my second night in Vegas, last month.  I had just arrived at BSC and been sent to an open seat at a 1/2 game.  As I was settling in at one of the middle seats, I couldn’t help hearing the conversation over at the end of the table, seats 1, 2 and 3.  In particular, seat 2 was especially vocal.  The subject was politics, the current political situation in the country.  Seats 1 and 3 were participating, but the conversation was being completely dominated by seat 2.  He was basically pontificating on the current political scene, non-stop.
Now I’ll be honest.  His political views were diametrically opposed to my own.  Pretty much 180 degrees from me. But I’d like to think if everything he said was in 100% agreement with my own point of view, I wouldn’t think this was appropriate conversation for a poker table. 
What were his views?  I’m not going to say.  It’s not relevant to my story, And this is key—I am not about to reveal my own political views on this blog.  This is a blog about Vegas and poker (and hookers and bosoms), not politics.  Just as I do not believe that political discussion belongs at the poker table, I don’t believe it belongs on this particular blog.  As it happens I have very strong political views, and I very intently follow the current political scene.  But if I wanted to air my political views, I’d start a political blog and I’d do it under another name.  (Note, I link to many fine bloggers who do indeed discuss their personal lives a lot more than me, and aren’t at all hesitant to discuss their political viewpoints.  That’s fine, and I respect them for doing that, but that’s not what I want to do with my blog)
Why am I so adamant about not wanting to discuss politics on this blog, and about not revealing anything about my own political views?  Well, I have a specific reason, but I will save that explanation for the end of this post, since it is not the main point of the post.
Anyway, this guy was really loud and really overbearing, and the fact that I’ve rarely encountered anyone who was as in love with the sound of his own voice as this guy certainly didn’t help. But the thing is, one of the reasons I play poker is to escape the “real world.”  And you can’t get any more “real world” than politics, especially in an election year. 
As I’ve indicated in many of the posts on this blog, I certainly enjoy many of the conversations  that take place at the poker table; in fact to a large degree, this blog exists because of such conversations, as I’ve certainly enjoyed recounting some of the more outrageous such discussions.   But some subjects are best left to other venues than the poker room. 
So I enjoy hearing talk about Vegas, shows, hotels, restaurants, movies, sports, occupations (to the extent people can talk about their own without it becoming too “real world”) and even, yes, hookers.  But generally speaking, people have the good sense to leave much of the real world out of it when they are there to have a good time (or, for the grinders, there to make their living).  Sure there’s an occasional Letterman/Leno type joke about some political situation or figure, and that’s all fine.  But in the past, whenever I’ve heard anyone say anything too serious about politics, the other players had the good sense not to respond, or perhaps respond in a way to shut down the conversation.  This time, I couldn’t really tell whether the other two guys were encouraging him to go on or just couldn’t figure out a way to shut the guy up, or maybe shutting the guy up was just impossible. 
Then to make matters worse, a couple of the dealers who were at the table started joining in.  I wasn’t sure if they were really agreeing with him, or just adding their own two cents, because I was doing my damnest not to listen.  To no avail.  And truth be told, this guy talked so much, if you were only 150 degrees from him politically, he probably said something you would agree with, because he had so many, many things.  But I really didn’t appreciate that my dealer buddies were encouraging him to keep babbling.  Or maybe even agreed with his offensive (to me) views.  I was thinking to myself, “don’t bother pushing me a pot, I’m in no mood to tip you.”  Yeah I was that upset.  Fortunately for them, I didn’t win anything during this time.  And you will note I’m not even identifying these two dealer with fake names.  It still pisses me off a bit.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he moved on to religion!  Religion talk at the poker table.  Are you kidding me.  He even started joking about, saying, “Yeah I know you aren’t supposed to talk about religion or politics, but I can’t help it.”  Perhaps some duct tape over this guy’s mouth would help.
So I was quite unhappy.  I could not concentrate at the game at all, I was just sitting there getting more and more pissed off that I had to listen to this loudmouth.  As I said, the nonstop talk would have been annoying no matter what he was saying.  And if he had the same political viewpoint as me it would have somewhat less annoying I suppose, but it still would have been way, way, way excessive.  I don’t think I could have taken it even if he was on my side of the argument.
I really think poker is the place to get away from this, beyond a few minutes or a joke or two.  I recall one time at a 2/4 game a guy told us he was a marriage counselor.  The guy next to him was fascinated by this and started peppering him with all sorts of questions about his work and about relationships.  He wasn’t talking about himself, at least he didn’t say he was.  It was always “a friend”.  So maybe he was just trying to get free advice.  But then he started asking the marriage counselor about famous people and what they needed to do to turn their lives around!  The poor guy didn’t seem to mind answering the questions, so maybe he too was in love with the sound of his own voice.  But I found it really annoying to hear such serious talk at the poker table.  Fortunately, because the discussion was only annoying and not offensive to me, I was able to put it out of my mind for the most part.  But not this time.
Of course, after just a few minutes, when I realized that this guy was not going to shut up and there was no chance he’d get off the topic, I put in for a table change.  I was actually concerned the guy was so loud that unless I got into another game all the way on the other side of the room, I still be able to hear him ranting.  Finally, at long last, I was indeed called for a table change.  I got just far enough away to not hear the guy.  Then, irony of irony, about 10 minutes after I moved, I saw him pick up his chips and depart, never to return again, presumably crawling back under the rock he came from. Still, that 10 minutes I didn’t have to put up with this jerk may have added a year or two to my life.
So I’m interested in hearing what people think about this.  Do you think it’s appropriate to talk about politics and religion at the poker table?  Did I over react?
I know some of you might find it annoying that I won’t reveal the details of the politics, his views and mine.  Sorry about that.  Just assume that my views are 100% in agreement with yours.  But for those interested, here’s a story from my “real life” that will explain my position on this.
Well over 10 years ago I had a boss who, like the guy in this story, also had political views the complete opposite of mine. And he too liked to talk about politics.  But because we usually we had to talk about work, he didn’t get a chance to piss me off with his commentary all that often.  And when he did, I had long ago developed a skill for such situations.  Rather than debate him, I would either say nothing or just act like a pundit and say a bunch of non-committal things that, if you weren’t paying close attention, might lead him to believe that I was agreeing with what he just said.  I would do this whenever politics was brought up in the workplace because I never felt anything was to be gained by revealing my political leanings.  So I suspect that this boss really did think I was on his side of the political aisle even though that couldn’t be farther than the truth.  I should point out that I always found it particularly ill-advised to get into a political argument with your boss, why give him one more thing to be upset with you about?
This boss retired and I moved on to another position but we kept in contact.  We exchanged emails every so often and even spoke on the phone a few times.  Fortunately, politics were never brought up.  We got along great and you could say we were friends. Then one day he forwarded a fund raising email from a particular organization to everyone in his address book, myself included.  He added an introduction, asking all his friends, who of course he just assumed all thought the same way he did, to consider contributing to this fine organization in anticipation of the upcoming election.
If it the email had come from one of the major political parties, I probably would have just ignored it.  Surely my ex-boss didn’t expect everyone to contribute and of course he would never know if I had or not.  But this organization was, in my opinion, a particular extreme one that supported his side of the aisle.  I was frankly surprised that my ex-boss would be on the mailing list, let alone be a contributor to, such an extreme group.  I didn’t realize he was that far to the extreme of the political viewpoint I so oppose. So, thinking that inasmuch as we would never work together again, there would be no harm in leveling with him as to how my views differed so much from his.
I was polite in my response, but I wanted to make it clear that he was wasting his time sending me email like this.  So I said very politely that my own viewpoint was totally different from this organization and that I would be eagerly voting the other way in the coming election.  Then I said, “I'm not offended that you sent me this, but you might just want to not include me in this in the future, since I am not exactly the demographic you are looking for.”
I got back a four word email, “That explains a lot.”
And that was basically the last I heard from him.  He didn’t respond to any of at least a dozen emails (non-political of course) that I sent him, even one where I congratulated him on his new grandchild that I had heard about.  I called him a few times, if I left messages he never called back.  If I got through, he was always very terse and said he was busy and would call me back, and he never did.
So I lost a friend, not because of any heated political debate we had, but just because he couldn’t accept having a friend who didn’t agree with his political views. 
We live in very polarized times, I’m afraid, and although this is an anomaly and I do have friends whose politics I very much disagree with and we get along great, I see no point in giving anyone who may feel like my ex-boss a reason to stop reading this blog.  My ex-boss can’t be the only one who can’t handle dealing with something who doesn’t share their politics.  Me, I am just fine with Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Moderates, Declined to States, independents, Socialists, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, whateverer’s, reading my blog. If someone stops reading my blog because they are tired of hooker stories or my “obsession with bosoms” or they think my analysis of poker is too unsophisticated, that’s fine, that’s fair.  But if someone were to stop reading my blog because they didn’t like my politics, when I never discuss politics on the blog, that would be very upsetting to me.
So that’s why there’s no political discussion on this blog.     


  1. I feel like I can discuss anything civilly with others, but that's unfortunately not the case with everyone. Honestly though there are people that have extreme political views on either end of the spectrum.

    I had a dude sitting right next to me at our local casino who was spewing the most ignorant conspiracy theory BS I'd ever heard in my life. Nobody was engaging with him in the discussion especially not the dealers, but he wouldn't shut up. I got up and went to the bathroom and stopped at the desk to request a table change when I see the guy get up and walk out. I walked back over to the table and found out who felted him and threw them a redbird and said thanks.

    1. Great story. Yeah, I've had a few conspiracy theorists at the table, but usually people ignore them so they eventually shut up (not always). At least a lot of them just mutter under their breath so you can tune them out. This guy was very loud and it appeared that the two guys on either side of him were encouraging him. Ugh.

  2. I'm of the opinion that any type of table talk is fair game and mostly just because when the subject gets serious I'm the asshole that takes the opposite stance just to piss the guy off who's trying to hold a serious discussion about whatever.
    I figure if they want to bring seriousness into my poker table then I'm going to probably piss them off a bit.

    None of the conversation material really bothers me because I don't take enough interest in the subject to be affected by the conversation.

    1. Nice thought, but I take this way too seriously to clown around with the guy. I come to play poker to take a break from heavy duty subjects. Someone wants to have a serious discussion of the issues of the day, let's go to a bar and chat. But let me have my fun at poker.

    2. I respect that - and I play poker for the same reasons - to take a break from my reality and enjoy myself.

      however, my reality is retail so as long as I don't have people yelling at me because their water heater failed or because their carpet is shedding then anything is fair game.

      With you at the table I doubt i'd ever be inclined to talk politics as we both have an eye out for something else that's just as in your face but more pleasant.

    3. See, if it was a buddy who was talking politics--or any topic I didn't want to discuss while playing--it wouldn't be a problem, because I'd just whisper to him that I didn't think this was an appropriate line of discussion, and hopefully, if he really was my buddy, he'd respect that and move on to another topic.

      But there was no shuting up this guy. I actually did consider saying loudly, more to the whole table than to him, "You know, I don't really thinkg it is appropriate to discuss politcs and religion at the poker table" but I wasn't sure how people would react, and it was just easier to move to another game.

  3. You probably would not like me at the poker table. I talk about all subjects and engage others frequently. If someone bothers me at the table with jerk-like banter, I tend to be able to ignore the situation and move on with my game. I either provide a counter argument or shut-up or talk to someone else. If I am playing in a good/great game, I would never leave because of someone I didn't like. I might just try harder to win their money.

    I know excessive talking can bother people, and on some occasions, when I see it is bothering someone, or they mention it out-loud, I talk even more, working on tilting them off some money.

    I hope it has never been you at the table :)

    1. Oh wow, you may be right, I might not like playing with you. There's no way I can play my best if I'm pissed off, and this guy was really pissing me off. I had no choice but to change tables. That's actually a weakness I need to improve on, getting too easily distracted while playing. So this was the last thing I needed.

      If that WAS you at the table, I'm really glad I moved before punching you out, which was my next step. :)

    2. Not me, I would not be the initial starter of a conversation on Religion, unless they were showing a story about it on the TV in the poker room.

    3. I meant to say that even tho I disagree with you I am glad you replied and I respect your view. I posted this story partly to see how people felt about this topic.

  4. I have never had a problem with this at a poker table, but have had with online places like Facebook. Unfortunately, some people are obsessed with their own views and see people on the other side as being completely evil. I could go on and on, but then I might become political and get my wrists slapped here. : o )

    1. Don't worry LIGHTNING, I won't slap your wrists. Heh heh. Facebook is a problem with me too. I admit that I occasionally post something political on it, but that's usually in response to a dozen posts from my friends on the other side finally posting enough garbage (imho) to piss me off enough that I have to give the other (correct) side.

  5. I think, like most things in life, it's a matter of knowing your audience. I was actually recently playing at a table near Rob, but maybe not in earshot, and stuck up a conversation with the young lady next to me. We discovered we had similar political interests, and chatted about them for 20 minutes or so. I don't think we were talking loudly, and other than the players immediately next to us, I doubt we would be heard, unless someone was trying to. Now, had I discovered she and I were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I probably would've just dropped the topic. Or, just maybe, tried to use it to get her angry and distracted, so as to make her play poorly, but probably not, that's not really my game. I do think it's a little declasse to just spew your views loudly at a table, but I'm also not likely to really make a fuss about it unless the person just won't stop.

    I'd rather hear SOME chatter at a table than just silence, so I'll tolerate most topics just to hear something...

    1. Oh no, Doug, I was not out of earshot at all. No sir. I heard exactly what was going on. In fact, when I was writing the post, I was a little bit afraid you would think I was talking about YOU! But of course I was not.

      Although I did hear you talking politics, you were both quiet enough so that I didn't really hear too much of the discussion, so I really have no idea what side of the aisle you and the hot chick were on. So that alone was a big difference. You could not avoid hearing every frickin' work the jerk in my story was saying. You guys were discreet.

      Besides, you were clearly tring to get in that chick's pants, so you get a total pass! I mean, all's fair in love and war, right? For all I know, you were just lying about your politics just to get her to like you so you could score later. How'd that work out?

      And btw, Doug, I have not forgotten about you at all, no sir. You will be showing up in at least one future post on this blog in the near future, count on it! Heh heh.

      And in keeping with this blog's policy, I had already come up with the phony name I was going to give you, but I guess now I will go ahead and use the name you've commented under. Stay tuned!

  6. Yeah, that situation with your former boss sucks. It seems that a side effect of the increasingly polarized nature of political "debate" in this country is that we're creating a culture that has absolutely no idea how to deal with conflict other than with volume or simply refusing to deal with it. I think it's important to. Learn how to disagree with people civilly. That's how we learn and grow.

    I've run across political discussion at the tables, and my typical response is to try and ignore it. Oftentimes though I find people actually making effort to engage me in the discussion which is generally a no-win situation. My response is pretty much what you did with your ex boss, try and say something that doesn't really mean anything but sounds like I'm participating. Fortunately, talking without saying anything is a skill my day job taught me!

    Can we get back to talking about boobs now?

    1. Thanks for posting, Glenn. The thing with my boss is that I was totally civil in my response, and if he wanted to debate me I would have been happy to show the error of his ways in a very fair minded, gentle, civil manner. Or, we could have kept in contact as we had for years without ever discussing politics, that would have been fine too (better, really). But he just couldn't accept having a friend who so differed with his rigid viewpoint.

      I'm curious, Glenn, about one thing....I see you posting on a few other blogs using your AVP handle, yet on my blog you are using what I believe to be your real first name. It would make more sense to me if you didn't want your real name associated with such a disreputable blog as this, but not the other way around. I guess I just haven't sunk low enough, huh?

      Don't worry. You ask when we get back to talking about boobs? Next post will be all about vaginas!

    2. Hey Rob - glad to see your latest post got back on track. There's a very simple answer to your question, when I posted the comment here it made me realize that my settings were wrong, I wanted to display my screen name just for consistency (no big deal having my real name out there but I just don't want to be confusing). I fixed the settings though so I should be consistent now. The above comment will be a rare commodity.

    3. Oh gosh, I love this line, Glenn, "glad to see your latest post got back on track!" That's awesome. You see, I was afraid I was desending a bit too much into silliness and sleaziness with all the talk of hookers and female body parts, so one of the reasons I did this post was to show I could blog about things non-hooker or body part related! But I see my "fans" are really only interested in hookers and female body parts. Silly me for trying to try for even a LITTLE class! I'll try not to make that mistake again! Thanks.

  7. Yeah, Rob, I don't like XXXXXXXs, either....just a bunch of narrow minded know-it-alls.

  8. Gotta agree with you on this. I wanna enjoy myself while playing poker. I'm not there to listen to heavy conversations on any topic. I usually keep to myself but on one occasion some idiot was spouting off about something that really hit home. I finally blew up a bit and said something and it made for an uncomfortable time at the table for everyone. That being said there's not much u can do about it besides changing tables if possible. Worst thing to do is stay and try to bust the person out.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tatude. No way I could try to bust the guy out, I was way too distracted by him to play decently. Maybe that was his plan all along, but I doubt it. It was easy to ask for a table change, unfortantely it took awhile before they could move me.

  9. Unfortunately I usually only play tournies so I fall into the trap of trying to bust out the loudmouth and it always fails lol. I'm a firm beleiver you don't talk about race religion or politics with strangers. Too much emotion with those subjects. Unfortunately some people act like real jerks at the tables and say and do things they wouldn't do in other settings. I'm actually surprised I haven't seen more fights at the tables. I play to have fun and socialize a bit not enter a c**k measuring contest to see who is the baddest.

    1. Yeah, tournaments would be tougher. I've had problems there just because the guy next to me was talking just too damn loudly with a big booming voice to people across the table. I never realized I hated football so much until the guy at a tourn next to me was talking about the game so loudly in my ear that I couldn't think straight.

      And if you read my story about "Poker Genuius" (still on the most popular posts spot as #2) you know I would have just loved to get a table change away from him and was just stuck.

      Good argument for playing more cash games, less tournaments!