Off The Press

June 11, 2013

By David Hayes

At least I don’t talk with my mouth full

A funny thing happened the last time I played poker.

Another player was slowly verbalizing her options in a particularly big pot when she said, “I never talk to myself. I only do this at the poker table.”

David Hayes Press reporter

David Hayes
Press reporter

That provided me with a personal epiphany. I did the same thing. Which made me wonder, just what else do I do at the poker table I don’t do anywhere else in life?

Sometimes, I break the niceties of sportsmanship and harshly criticize another player for something they did (usually to my detriment).

“That was the stupidest play!” I have been known to exclaim when the victim of extreme luck. “You are the worst player in the world!” (Poker pros actually have a term for this — donkey.)

Now, imagine sitting in an office setting (in my case the newsroom). I would never utter a declaration of this magnitude.

“That’s the worst constructed sentence I’ve ever read! You are the worst writer in the world!”

See, something in poker just draws out my ire that my co-workers never have to face.

Then, there’s math.

I’m a journalist, so I need to know grammar more than trigonometry. Back in high school, I actually dropped out of chemistry (which used waaay too much math) because I was absolutely, positively sure I’d never, ever use the information again in my life (although, I did have the highest grade of anyone dropping the course).

Now, there are not enough fingers on my hands as I find myself during the course of a poker tournament trying to figure out pot odds. For example, let’s say I have a pair or a straight or flush draw, someone raises, leaving me to wonder how many outs are left for me to beat them from the remaining cards still to come. This boils down to trying to figure out if my odds are 2 to 1, 3 to 1 or at such an astronomically high spread, a call would be suicidal. That’s why I rely more on my ample gut feeling, than decisions based on math, more often than not.

Nervous ticks seem to also manifest at the poker table. Because there is so much down time between hands they’re involved in, poker players develop a skill involving their chips, from the twirl to the knuckle roll. Usually, the more advanced the skill, the more you’d better watch out when that player is in a hand.

I learned the basic shuffle and have stuck with it. Essentially, you take two small stacks and shuffle them together, with one hand, into one bigger stack. Simple. But it tends to be noisy, especially when doing it nonstop and in a room full of other nervous nellies doing the same thing.

I can’t imagine doing something this annoying with any piece of office supply — pencil shuffling, shaking a box of paper clips, crumpling news pages nonstop. I’d drive my co-workers insane with the distraction.

By admitting I have them, hopefully these idiosyncrasies at the card table don’t turn me into a plain idiot elsewhere in life.


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