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Explanations at the Table

Explanations at the Table
By Loki Luchs of

There are a lot of things about poker that take discipline; what cards to play, when to bet, and deciding when to be walk away. One of the things that most players find difficult to be disciplined about is how to interact with the other players at the table. How do you stay polite when your opponent is rude? When do you step into a conversation? If a player asks you to show, when should you? For me, one of the hardest things to do is to know when to explain my plays to an opponent.

The rule is (generally) never tell your opponent why you made a sophisticated play. If you explain why you made a play, you give away a lot of incidental information. Foremost, you won't be able to use the same play a second time. They'll see it coming and it immediately becomes ineffective.


Another reason is that you don't want to tip-off mediocre opponents that they should be careful with you. On a personal note, I don't like people to know my abilities, because of the "hubris" factor. There's no easier way to go on tilt than to be embarrassed publicly after telling/showing people that you're the real thing. If a fish beats you in a hand, it's hard to keep that blood out of your face… especially when the other players start giving you a hard time about it.

A few weeks ago, I was in an interesting hand. At a very loose/aggressive table, I was in second position with three more behind me. I had made the nut flush on the turn and the river came a blank. My opponent bet. I, naturally, flat-called his bet. Of the remaining players, two called, and one folded. As I turn over the winner, my villain mucks his baby flush and starts fuming. "Can you believe how bad this guy plays? What a moron. He has the nuts and he doesn't even raise!" I'm used to these reactions. It's a rare thing where I actually let my opponent's ignorance get the better of me. Twenty minutes has gone by and I've maintained my cool. My opponent, however, won't let it go. "… and he flat-called the nuts!" I finally decided that this was one of the exceptions to the rule.

"Sir, I was second to act in a five-handed river. There's a bet in front of me and I was faced with the decision of how to get the most money. With a straight and a flush possible on the board, none of the three players behind me will likely call with a bet and a raise into them. By checking I can potentially get three more big bets into the pot, while by raising, I will likely get one more out of you. There's also the chance that you won't even call if you were betting two pair. So if I play it my way, I stand to make three more bets, while your way I might get one more. That's not counting the money I stand to make if one of the others is sitting on a flush and they raise behind me. If that's the case, I can re-raise and might make 5-6 big bets on the play. Don't get me wrong, sir. I hold no prejudice against you… your money is just as good to take as everyone else's, but you must be patient. I can only take so much of it at a time."


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