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Apologizing at the Poker Table

Apologizing at the Poker Table
by Chad Holloway of

There are very few instances when I believe it is appropriate to apologize at the poker table; in fact, in my experience a misplaced apology can often be seen as an insult (poor etiquette) rather than a kind gesture. Before examining the folly of saying "I'm sorry" at the table, it is important to remember your goal at the table. Most of the time it is to extract as many chips from your opponents as possible, especially in ring games, while often attempting to eliminate them, as in tournaments. These goals are akin to the "kill or be killed" mindset soldiers exhibit during war, since your opponents are looking to take your money or knock you out before you can do it to them. If you do not like accomplishing these feats, perhaps poker is not the game for you.

The main instance where I believe an apology is appropriate at the table is when a personal issue is brought into the game. For instance, when a player swears or says something negative to another player, then an apology would be appropriate. Another example of when an appropriate apology would be due is when a violation of the rules has occurred. Aside from these few situations, you should not apologize at the table.


Do not say "I'm sorry" when you knock someone out of the tournament because the person knows this is not the case. If it had to be either him or you, he knows you are not truly sorry because you would always choose to eliminate him rather than yourself. Knowing this, apologizing in this case could easily be construed as adding insult to injury. Do not say "I'm sorry" when you win someone's money in a sizeable pot. Everyone has a different and personal relationship towards money so when you take some of it, your opponent could be experiencing a range of emotions. Not knowing exactly what he is thinking, it is probably a bad idea to apologize because he knows you'd take the money every time, otherwise you wouldn't have taken it in the first place.

The absolute worst time to apologize is after inflicting a bad beat on someone, and by bad beat I mean making a play you know to be totally wrong, yet you make it anyway, and happen to one out (or whatever the situation may be) your opponent. Personally, this is when I get the most upset after hearing someone apologize. Why is that? First, if my opponent considers himself a decent poker player, he knows what the right moves are, and if he doesn't, he certainly knows what constitutes a terrible play. Second, why are they making a play that they know is wrong, where they are not getting the proper odds and have a next to nil chance of winning if they are not hoping to get lucky.

With that said, if they do get lucky the last thing I want to hear is them apologizing for doing exactly what they hoped. Don't get me wrong, I'm always glad when an opponent puts their money in bad, I want them to do it every time, but every once and awhile they get lucky, that's poker. Just don't tell me how sorry you are about it, if you were really sorry you wouldn't have made the move in the first place, and if you were really, really sorry you could just give me my money back after the hand . . . but that never happens, no matter how sorry you may say you are.


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