Celebrate Every Player

At our bar league the other night, a lady was running good. She hit Aces twice in the first hour versus some inexplicably large pre-flop action on both hands.  She raised properly, they held.

She won a big flip with AQ vs TT.

And so she got to the bubble with a massive chip lead. She rivered another player’s all in on the flop when her ace hit the river.  She was way behind but caught.

It was her night.

Some of the regulars thought they had a skill advantage on her.  Maybe they did.  When we get to the “real” money bubble, they put some pressure on her to chop.

But she wanted to win. She said, quietly “I’m usually one of the first out here, and I like that I’ve got a chance to win.” Nice person.  I’d met her but rarely played with her, maybe an hour total.

Her refusal to chop pissed off one of the regs who wound up finishing third (2x buy-in) in top-heavy pay structure.   “I’ll remember this,” he growled.

And in most circumstances, with the bar closing soon, most players would have chopped. But she wanted the win.  She wanted it more than we wanted it.  My interest was to let the hosts go home, but she got beat up a lot by the players there, for weeks.  

For one night, she got to take everyone out.  That’s why we all play poker.  I’m not gonna beat Joe Cada to the top of the winnings lists.  But I might make a hero call at the right time when he misses his draw and take a pot off of him, like my buddy did. When I do, that’ll feel great.

As the famous Emily Dickinson poem goes:

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

But, in that moment, I was a little annoyed.  An experienced player would have chopped.  It was a $30 buy-in…so the difference between 1st and 2nd was like $100 bucks. I wound up finishing 2nd after I bullied her a little bit heads up.  She didn’t understand what I was doing and I closed the gap to the point where she finally surrendered a little equity and I was able to go home with my pride intact.

Around the bubble, There was some unpleasant poker dysfunction at the table, the ‘regulars’ were really getting on her to chop, and sending some stupid zingers about her poker play. They were short stacked and had just run into some fairly hilarious bad beats.

When I thought about it, I realized that I should have just been happy for her.  She’s gotta be able to win sometimes. Even if it’s very occasionally.  Because she’ll stop coming when she thinks it’s hopeless. She’ll stay home. Maybe her husband will too.  Sometimes she comes with friends, and they may stay at home too.

It’s easy to say this because I got out in 2nd place and was only very briefly in jeopardy of not cashing. But, the truth is, I gotta embrace it when someone that doesn’t get to win…gets to win.

Because those wins keep them coming back and those players keep the games going.

So let ’em suck out on you.  Tell ’em nice hand.  And continue to crush them 80% of the time.


Christopher Patrick Johnson

Christopher Patrick Johnson is a ghostwriter, startup founder, entrepreneur, and a dad in the pacific northwest. He is more than a little obsessed with processes. He lives with his family of 4 in Richland, WA.