July 11, 2010

No More Mr. Nice (Catch) Guy

I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing,
'Til they got a hold of me.
I opened doors for little old ladies,
I helped the blind to see.

I got no friends 'cause they read the papers,
They can't be seen with me.
And I'm gettin' real shot down,
And I'm feelin' mean.

No more Mister Nice Guy.
No more Mister Clean.
No more Mister Nice Guy.
They say he's sick, he's obscene.

Alice Cooper
I played a short session at the Meadows ATM after work Friday, and it was a rollercoaster.  Early on, I donked off half my stack, flopping altos dos pairs with 98s, but my opponent pushed the turn when an Ace fell.  It felt a lot like she had hit Aces up, but there were a lot of draws she would play that way, so I agonized a bit and made the call; she rolls over A9, natch.  But I got healthy shortly after, when my A5s flopped the nut boat—A55—and got doubled up by AK unimproved.

In some strange hands, a guy played 7c4c for a raise, and flopped the 7-high straight flush.  Guess it's the magic of the crubs.  Later, a guy raises on the button, and I call in the small blind with a sooooted Spanish Inquisition (6-3).  Flop gives me a gutshot straight draw, so I call a small c-bet.  Turn and rivers are blanks and we go check-check.  Other guy says, "I can't win" and is itching to muck.  After a couple seconds, I say, "6-high" and roll my hand.  Other guy laughs and rolls over his own Spanish Inquisition for the chop.  Then, for the pèce de résistance, I play QhJh, and flop the monster draw—KhTh4s.  I check, a guy bets, a lady pushes, I call, other guy folds.  Turns out I'm up against a set of 4s.  Turn is the beautiful Ac for Broadway, but the river is the Ks for the boat.  Le sigh.  It would've been awesome if I could've hit a King-high straight flush in hearts for the second week in a row, but regrettably, I left my Infinite Improbability Drive at home.

In any event, this session also marked the start of my self-imposed ban on the use of the phrase, "Nice catch."  For those of you who haven't played poker with me, I like to think I'm a goodfella at the table, keeping things light with jokes and witty banter, always trying to be polite, never tapping the glass.  But, I do tend to be sarcastic, and when I get annoyed, my go-to sharp barb is, "Nice catch."  I am a veritable Baskin-Robbins of different inflections on the phrase—biting, cutting, derisive, dismissive, acidic, caustic, snarky, snide, sarcastic, and sardonic—I've got the full spectrum of tonal flavors. 

During my marathon session last week, I found myself saying "nice catch" a lot more often than usual, primarily because the crazy loose action initiated by a rotating group of poker gamblers resulted in a high degree of bad play, which seemed to be rewarded with ridiculously improbable frequency.  But, as I later reflected on the session away from the heat of battle, it occurred to me that the entire point of poker is to encourage players to chase improbable hands.  We should want players to chase gutshot draws, to call preflop three-bets with dominated hands, to play seven-deuce (or other "favorite hand"), to ignore pot odds, and to be oblivious to kicker problems.  In fact, we should want other players to suck out.

Now, we all know the pain of a bad beat.  Why on earth should we welcome suckouts?  Because they reward bad players for their bad decisions, guaranteeing they will continue to make similar bad decisions, and continue to chase bad hands for good money.  Out on the casino floor, the pit bosses don't get upset when a gambler hits a longshot bet at high but bad odds.  Nope, they smile, knowing that same gambler will continue making similar bad bets until all his winnings, and likely more money from his wallet, are resting securely in the casino counting room.

The same principle applies in poker.  Why get upset with the maniac who seems to be hitting every hand, building up a monster stack?  How often do those players keep their monster stacks?  Just like with the casino gambler, the poker gambler almost always gives back his winnings, plus interest.  Although a sarcastic "nice catch" might feel good momentarily, it really is a form of tapping the glass.  Hearing "nice catch" tells bad players they are playing badly, which is information they really should learn on their own (hopefully very slowly).  Hearing a snide remark also reduces the fun the bad player is having, making him less likely to continue gambling.  Above all else, do anything possible to make sure a bad player has a great time while losing his money!

So, beginning with my last session, I have banned myself from saying "nice catch" at the poker table.  If I do, it means a redbird fine, paid as a tip to the dealer who is being subjected to my personality that particular down.  So far, one four hour session, only one fine.  To that lucky dealer, let me just say, "Niiiiiccce catch, Vinny!"


  1. I grant you are correct sir in your view of the donkey who sucks out on you and builds a big stack of your chips. Unfortunately my experience has been he gives those chips away to some other fool at the table while I am waiting for something besides 9-2 off to play or I get broke while taking further donkey beats

  2. @ The Neophyte: You are correct, the ultimate #runbad is to be the only person at the table who is a net loser to the poker gambling donkey. It is always better if the statistical variance happens to someone else, and you get the benefit of the chips!

  3. I humbly refer you to this post:


  4. @ Rakewell: Dammit! I should've known you would've covered this already. Excellent post. If I didn't like you, I would be forced to place you on the taserlist.