By: The Grinder
Last week, I watched Deal –a 2008 poker movie in which Alex Stillman (played by Bret Harrison) ends up playing heads up with his mentor and friend Tommy Vinson (played by Burt Reynolds) at the WPT championship main event.
Stillman, 21, lays down the winning hand to let Vinson, the aging veteran and former poker pro, fulfill his longstanding dream of winning a main event. This reminded me of a movie I watched long ago with a similar finish.
The movie was Lucky You, where Eric Bana’s character Huck Cheever lays down the winning hand against his dad L.C.Cheever, played by the great Robert Duvall. This is more like slowing down to let the guy behind you win the 100 metres at the quadrennial Olympics, after having waited to compete all your life. It’s never going to occur in real life, and by that I mean, you’re never going to see a young gun sacrifice his first win to let an old timer win.
Would you see a vice versa situation, though? Do you think that in the year 2040, a 76-year-old Phil Hellmuth, with 25 WSOP bracelets would let a young kid who is playing for a stem cell research charity in an attempt to save his paralyzed dad win? Nope. Not a chance. As extreme as that situation sounded to you, it was just to hint at a simple hard fact in poker—nobody lets anybody win. Unless of course, it’s one of those guys who tilted and lost everything to his nemesis at the table, and then later told his buddy he let him win. He is lying. So don’t let the director of Lucky You or Deal fool you into believing in this soft spot in humankind, rather pokerkind. There is none. Nobody’s going to let you win, and you damn sure better not let anyone else win in this game.
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Confessions of a Grinder
Have you ever heard anyone say, “The first rule of poker is – Play the player not the situation”, or “Know when to hold’ em and when to fold ‘em.” In my opinion, there are many first rules in poker, with each rule making more sense depending on the situation. I am going to list some of my own ‘first rules’ and the poker players or movie characters who follow them. My first first rule is “Shut up and play.” I have made too many good calls listening to opponents speak and picking on their tells. A nervous poker player more often than not sounds like a meek rat with a soft cracking high-pitch tone. Although this goes against my personality and sense of humor, I am working hard on being a stoical statue-like opponent like Patrick Antonius. John Vorhaus, a prolific poker writer, player, author and script developer would agree when he said “Never educate a stupid poker player.” He is right. Why try? Let a donkey speak his own Chinese.
My second favorite first rule is “Show them no Mercy.” I have heard too many fools on table say, “Yeah I knew you had two pair and you’d call. I didn’t want your money, so I checked back”. This usually happens to the players sitting to your immediate left or right whom you tend to bond with for no apparent reason. Don’t do it! Matt Damon’s character agreed in the movie Rounders when he said, “It’s immoral to let a sucker keep his money.” Robert Duvall in the movie Lucky You said, “You want sympathy? You’ll find it between “shit” and “syphilis” in the dictionary.” Remember, you are in it to win it!
There are a few first rules I like about patience, folding and playing tight. Here are a few: “Tight is Right”, “Poker stands for Patience Over Knowledge Equals Results” and, one from the great Amarillo Slim, “Fold and live to fold again”. One of my favorite quotes is by our very own Jim Paris – “Wait!, Wait!, Wait!” I think that’s a good rule of thumb. If you are card dead, just wait, wait and wait. If you’re interested in other interesting rules, quotes and opinions, you can find lots of them in the many poker books written by professional poker players. Whatever your first rule is, I hope you follow it and succeed. Good luck at the tables!
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