The Hand Police by Marcus Bateman

We all know the player type. Gasping for air in some Phil Hellmuthesque deranged rant about what a fool you are to ever have played such a hand and what a fish you are, these player types can provide one of the best examples of how not to behave at the poker table out there – both in terms
of actual verbal behaviour, as well as in how not to play.

The first, and most obvious reason why this sort of behaviour is not only extremely annoying to those around those doing it – but also extremely bad for business in general – is the simple fact that weak players like to play weak hands. Berating someone for playing badly in a game where
you pray for people playing badly is about as stupid a move as is possible in life. It is akin to a bookmaker telling all it’s regular customers they are idiots and only inviting insider traders into their establishment – hardly a good move by any stretch of the imagination.

If you see what you think is a ‘bad’ play at the poker table, either keep your mouth shut and attack it at every available opportunity, or try and understand it in the terms of the game if the person in question seems to be a winning player. Lot’s of what goes in a poker game is extremely complex, and moves which appear very bad on the surface can actually be just a standard part of a winning player’s need to balance and mix up their game, or simply the required strategy in certain situations.

As an example, when I first started playing poker in a small live sit and go, the big winner in the game seemed to always have the worst hand in all ins but won the game all the time – simply because he understood correct shoving ranges and stack sizes late on. On the surface what he was
doing seemed very weak (shoving regularly with junk), but in reality, what he was doing was very strong (applying huge pressure late, winning many big pots uncontested, and often having the chips to survive a few more all ins than those around him which adds up very quickly in a turbo sit and

Always be wary of anyone in poker saying something was definitively good or bad in terms of hand selection. Hand police themselves are usually relatively weak players, simply because they believe there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to play poker in terms of the cards. The simple truth is that poker is a game of situations, ranges, and people – not exact hands – and any comment about moves with certain hands nearly always come from dull, predictable, tight players, who just don’t think about the game at a very high level.

If you set up high standards for the table you look very stupid if you suddenly get caught doing something unorthodox. No one likes to feel hypocritical ever in life, but to do so in an environment where it will be so quickly picked up on and observed by others nearly always leaves these players in a prison of their own creation. They can’t make the moves required to win at poker against good players, simply because they have set standards for those around them that they now have to live (and usually die) by.

If you are not getting caught regularly doing something with a weak hand in poker you are generally playing very badly unless at a table of complete fish, and in a game as relative as poker, there is very rarely a truly ‘correct’ thing to do. Hand police might make themselves out to be some kind of grand authority on the game, but in reality they are usually some of the weakest players out there, who not only make fish feel uncomfortable and want to leave, but also play meekly and badly due to the odd standards they set the world around them and have to then abide by – do not be intimidated or tempted to imitate them.

Read more Marcus Bateman articles over at the Betfair Poker Blogs