Today’s blog is just a massive rant. You may be about to be offended here, you may be the sort of person I’m about to lay into, and if you are, I’m sorry.
That was a lie. I’m not sorry.
I hate bad beat stories. Yeah, yeah, I know, we all hate bad beat stories. I promise you, I hate them more, I can almost guarantee I’ve listened to more of them than you have.
What a self-important brag from a dim-witted, pert-titted young thing (alright, youngish. Fuck off.) such as me, eh? I stand by it, and here’s why.
I’m a poker player, with poker player friends and acquaintances, so I get the bad beat stories from that part of my life. I also work in a cardroom and have done for a decade, so I get all those bad beat stories too. Those ones are even worse, because I’m on the clock, so I have to smile while I listen, make sympathetic noises and not punch anyone in the face. Can you imagine not being able to punch people in the face where you work? It’s political correctness gone mad!
If I’m honest, I don’t hate all bad beat stories, just the rambling, incoherent, waffly ones. If someone can quickly, and accurately, convey the information without attempting to turn the whole thing into a feature length episode of CSI Miami, then fine, I’m all ears for the ten seconds that will take. Sometimes poker is painful, and sometimes sharing helps, but the blind levels of my life are fast increasing, and wandering bad beat stories are tanking out my life clock in a way that I just cannot handle.
Here is an example of what I call a wandering bad beat story:
“Kat! I’m out. Kat, seriously, listen to this, you won’t believe what happened. I had just sat down at the table and I got AK, it was suited as well! Suited, right? And my favourite suit too, I love hearts, I always play suited hearts.
I was under the gun, no wait, there was another guy. I was seat two and the button was seat 8, no wait… seat 7, or something.
I had 10 big blinds, and I wanted to get it in, so I limped, pretty sure someone would raise, someone always raises when I limp early with 6-7 off. Right? Right??
Well they did. The button raised three big blinds, no, wait… two and half, no… four big blinds and then the big blind tanked for a bit. Then he finally passed and I gently stroked my chin stubble as I pretended to think for a bit before then shoving all-in. That’s gambling with all my chips.
The raiser didn’t even think about it Kat, he did not even think about it. I suppose he did have a 45000 big blind stack, but he didn’t even think about it before he called me with 9s-9d. Oh my GOD, 9s-9d what a donk, right? They weren’t even suited. Right?
The flop comes down Ace, four, seven, with two hearts. No… wait, Ace, five, seven, but actually, there was only one heart. And I’m all like ‘Yeah, yeah, I got this now.’
Then the turn is the two of hearts, yeah, so I had the flush draw on the turn, right? I was literally invincible! That means the 9 of hearts was dead to him, he only had one out. One out. You understand? He only had one out. One; just one. Guess what the river was, guess. Guess! GUESS!”
“From the way you’re foaming at the mouth and standing on the rail, I’m going to guess the nine of clubs.”
“YES! Exactly. What are the actual chances? I mean, seriously, how likely is that shit?”
“9 handed on the river? Exactly 1/27, unless you know it’s already dead, in which case, 0 chance.”
This is how the same story should be told:
“I’m out, Kat. Got it all in pre in a good spot on a race and lost. Meh. Any cash games open?”
You can see the difference. The first story usually takes an average of 3 minutes to tell, once you include dramatic pauses, flappy hand gestures and the required thinking time to recall the exact card dealt on every street. I hear that story, or similar, at least 5 times a night. That’s 15 minutes a night, four nights a week, 46 weeks a year, for ten years. That means I have listened to approximately 460 hours of poorly recounted “bad” beat stories in my life, and that’s not including the ones from my friends.
Can you now understand my rage a bit more?
My impotent, self-important rage is not even the point, if I thought that these types of story need to be part of poker, then I’d listen all day long, but they don’t, and here’s the sole reason why:
Know your audience; this type of story has no audience demographic.
That sounds pretty wanky, but what I mean is actually fairly simple. Inexperienced players don’t follow these stories anyway, they don’t understand them. Experienced players are bored by them, so to whom exactly is Mr Waffly Bad Beat Man telling his story? The answer can only be one person, and that is, himself.
I don’t know about you, but I love to have a little chat with myself; some days it’s the only way I can be sure of any decent conversation. There is much evidence suggesting that, far from being a sign of madness, talking to oneself, out loud, is actually a very therapeutic mechanism; that’s a subject for another blog, on a different site. My point is that I’m not knocking the act of talking to oneself, just the act of doing it where I can hear it. If your therapy makes me need therapy then you can tell your story walking, because I can’t take any more.
Sometimes I see a beat that I want to know more about, I watch something so horrific that I want the details, I want to feel the emotional curves of the story. Having seen and played so much poker, I think those hands are very rare, and therefore the 460 hours of listening I’ve done is massively dis-proportionate.
PokerStars have re-published their best blogs this week to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the PokerStars blog. The Howard Swains piece where he stalked Affleck after his cold elimination in 15th place from the 2010 WSOP Main Event has been cited as the “best story the PokerStars blog ever published”. Quite an accolade, and yet it had almost nothing to do with the mechanics of poker. The actual beat is out the way in the first paragraph!
I’m so sure you’ve seen that moment, but perhaps you want to watch it again. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I suggest keeping a box of tissues handy, because Affleck’s wounded little face and wet eyes make me well-up every time I watch it.
I think the PokerStars piece on Affleck is so good because it serves the purpose of the story of a really horribly timed beat (mathematically, it wasn’t that harsh) without being boring; Affleck played the hand well and the proximity to the FT of the WSOP ME is what makes it so awful. The piece reveals the real reason behind anyone telling any bad beat story of any length, to anyone else; bad beat stories are actually about the emotion involved, not the cards.
If you can tell me your beat, succinctly, I will be sympathetic. I’ve been there, buddy, I feel your pain. In tournaments, timing is everything, so an average beat, at a certain time, can feel very cruel. If you want to share, I’m there, just don’t waffle shite in the process. There is no need. Anyone who needs to have action explained in that level of detail, does not understand what you’re saying, and that will make it very hard for them to care.
If you can’t tell your story in a sentence, please don’t try to tell me, or anyone, unless they are your best friend, or your mum. Take a picture and show me, I’ll work it out. Or, if you just have Affleck style pain, come to me and ask for a hug, I’ll hold you until the pain passes; but no talking. Or eye contact.
If you know you are a Mr Waffly Bad Beat Man (or Woman), then do some time-commodity maths and work out how many hours you’ve spent recounting average, everyday poker happenings like they were ‘the best story ever written’. How many poker books or strategy articles could you have read in that time? Enough to work out that in the above waffly story the 10bb/AK-holding spot would have been better utilised as an open shove, or possibly a ballsy Stop and Go, moment?
Time is a massively important commodity, and we can never win it back. Wasting our own time is our individual prerogative, but wasting someone else’s a heinous crime.
Have a lovely day, but, please, be succinct when you tell me about it later, because I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve got loads of conversations I need to have with myself.