Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Give Back

This incident took place the same day I played at the Venetian tournament (see here).  But it’s not really a second part to the story, since this took place in a cash game, not a tournament.  Consider it more of a follow-up.

So after I busted out of the tournament so early, I had a fair amount of time on my hands.  Since I was playing hooky to play in the tournament, I could have just gone back to my hotel and gotten some work done.  But I didn’t really feel like that.  I had planned to spend the whole day playing poker and by golly, that’s what I intended to do.  And I wanted to play cash at the Venetian anyway.  Not only is it a comfortable room, but I want to keep my comps current.  You see a few years ago they changed the comps so that they expire if you don’t play in the room for a full year.  As long as you play cash there once a year, they’ll last forever.  So I make it a point to play there at least once every Vegas trip.  In fact, after this session, I treated myself to a delicious steak at the CafĂ© Lux at the Venetian, courtesy of my poker comps.  They also serve an excellent burger.

This was nothing like my meal that night
The cash game session for me was not particularly memorable.  I only wrote down four hands and only one of those is worth writing about—and then only because it involved the dreaded pocket Kings—and a favorable result with them at that!  I opened to $10 with them and only had one caller.  It happened to be the guy I played with earlier at the tournament who messed up his bet by saying “5” when he put out a $5K chip.  The flop was Ace-high of course, and I dutifully put out a continuation bet of $15 which he called.  The turn was a blank and we both checked.  But the river was nice—a King.  I bet $35 and he tanked for awhile, but eventually he called.  He didn’t show when he saw my not-at-all-dreaded Kings, but he later insisted he had an Ace.

But the situation I want to talk about involved two players who I’m certain didn’t know each other before they started playing at this table, sometime before I showed up.  One guy was a middle-aged guy, maybe approaching senior citizenship.  The other guy was much younger.  I’m bad with ages, he could have been mid-late 20’s or even early 30’s.

I think the first hand between them may have started before I even got to the table.  All I can say for sure was that there was a Jack on the flop, and a flush draw and some low cards and I dunno who said “all-in” first but they both got their money in on the turn.  They didn’t show.

The river was a 4, which paired the board. The younger fellow was only too happy to show his hand—4-3 for a full house.  But the paired board on the river had turned the older fellow’s set of Jacks into a bigger boat and he took the pot—and all of the younger guy’s chips.  It was at least a $300 pot, maybe more.

The older guy was apologetic (“Oh sorry, tough beat,”) and unlike most “I’m sorry’s” after a cooler hand, it sounded sincere.  The younger guy was totally a good sport about it.  It was no big deal.  He’s played a lot of poker, he’s seen it all, it happens, etc.  And he also pointed out that even though he had two pair on the turn, he knew he might have been behind and was really hoping to complete the flush.

The older guy kept acting guilty over it and the younger guy kept saying it was no big deal.  As he was waiting for his rebuy chips to show up, he said, “I’ll get you back when I get some more chips.”  And the older guy said, “I hope you do.”  What?  You hope someone takes your chips?  Really?  It was an odd thing to say, but then the whole thing was odd.  After all, the guy who won the pot was ahead the whole way.  Had a blank hit the river, his set would have beaten the other guy’s two pair.  It wasn’t like he’d hit a one or two outer to win. He was supposed to win that hand.

Anyway, the two of them introduced themselves to each other and somehow became instant pals. One of them went over to the other and they shook hands. They actually were bonding over the hand.

Fast forward an hour or so later.   By this time I had determined that they were both pretty decent players.  The younger guy was more aggressive but they were both solid. And then came a hand where there were four diamonds on a 10- high board and it was pretty damn obvious to even a bad player like me that the younger guy had a flush.  But on the river they got it all in.  The older guy called the younger guy’s shove.  He still had more chips than the younger guy but it was another pretty big pot between the two of them.

So the younger guy showed his flush to the surprise of absolutely no one.  And the older guy showed 10-9 for top pair, crappy kicker.  Huh?  You call a big shove with just top pair? When he was certainly a good enough player to put the other guy on the flush?  Really?

That left the older guy with a pretty small stack.  But he seemed happy that he had lost his chips to the same guy who he’d won them from before. 

I was going to write that it was almost like he wanted to give the guy’s chips back to him, but honestly, I don’t think the word “almost” belongs in there.  It was pretty much exactly like he was trying to give the guy “his” chips back.  I was sitting next to the dealer and actually said something to him about it.  “Did he give his chips away intentionally?” The dealer shrugged and said, “Well….it was pretty weird the way it played out.”

I wondered if I should have said something, somehow complained.  The thing is, no one else was hurt by this giveback.  There were no other players in the hand.  And it wasn’t a tournament.  If the older guy wanted to give the guy back “his” chips, what was the harm?  In fact, since he left not long after, he actually was doing the rest of us a favor by leaving his chips behind so that the rest of us could try to win them.

But I found it very strange.


  1. What would have been your complaint? He made a loose call? You can't collude with yourself. And even the definition of soft play requires that you know the other person. Does playing within someone for a few orbits qualify as knowing them? At the risk of exposing just what an awful poker player I am I will admit the following. I have been seated with at a table with people I have never seen before. After a few hours I have formed some opinions about those folks. There are some whose stacks I would be more than happy to take but I am involved in a pot with someone who appears to be the nicest person on the planet, as I make a loose call, one that I know is likely a loser, a call I would not make against others at the table, I say to myself "If I lose my chips to this person it's not the worst thing in the world". Am I cheating? If I don't know you and I choose to dump my chips to you, if I bet, raise or call withing the rules I don't think it is out line, stupid, but not out of line. If anything it shows the benefits of not being a surly, sour pussed cuss at the table.

    A few years ago I played enough hours (at 2/4 limit) at casino in Vegas to qualify for the Friday morning freeroll. I show up at whatever time it started and it's me and like 4 tables of locals. The final table doesn't play they just chop it up. At this point in my poker career I haven't played much live no limit and very few tournaments and it shows. It gets down to two tables and the bubble. I am the short stack at my table, the only woman left, and bringing the average age down by at least a decade or perhaps two. I am forced to shove every ace and would have shoved my big blind. Miraculously every time I shove everyone folds and every time I am in the big bling everyone folds. This had to go on for two full orbits. Someone busts at the other table and BINGO I cash for the first time in a tournament. No one could have been happier than I was. Did those old guys make sure I didn't bust? I suspect so. Did they make sure that my butt was in a chair at the table every night for the rest of my trip (and many others). Yep. So what they did ended up being good for The Game (another fish in the pond) and in particular their game, in their room.

    Poker is a human game, played by humans. I if I choose not to raise some random dude at the table where I would have raised you that's just human variance.

    1. Thanks, Ag, what a great comment. It's almost worthy of it's own guest blog post!

      Regarding your opening question, well, yes, that's ultimately why I decided I couldn't say anything. I guess my real issue was, "There's no way he was a bad enough player to make that call." I mean, I've seen many BAD players make that call, but he wasn't in that category. It was just weird and ultimately, I think in his mind he had somehow unjustly won the first hand I described and wanted to give the guy his chips back. As if anything in poker happens "justly."

      I can certainly relate to your comment about WHO wins my chips. I mean, I've probably not made some crying calls because I really didn't like the person who bet and I didn't want that particular person getting that many of my chips, I may have called if it was a different player I didn't mind as much losing to.

      And also...I have definitely seen male players play differently against a female player for reasons that have nothing to do with poker and everything to do with human nature.

      You even see guys outright admit it....they will not call the lady's all-in and say, "I didn't want to bust you."

      And many a time when the attractive woman loses all her chips and leaves, the rest of the table will verbally "attack" the guy who busted her. "You had to bust the pretty girl?"

      In the situation I saw, my guess is that the guy who was so generous was playing with money he didn't care about at all and somehow felt it was right that he let the guy win his chips back. I think he actually better that way--and probably felt better than if he had left the hand before with all those chips he'd taken off the guy.

      Obviously, he was a very nice guy--too nice to be a poker player!

  2. The younger of the two needed the money for his tuition to become doctor and specialize in giving free healthcare to the needy. The older guy sensed that.

    1. I think you may have nailed it, Lester. Thanks!