Another week, another high-profile angle-shoot.
My therapist has just helped me get over the audacity of Alec Torelli’s video regarding his “not an angle-shoot” angle-shoot on PNIA, and now I have to deal with an angle-shoot incident from British poker darling Patrick Leonard?
Here’s a clip of the alleged angle-shoot (like you haven’t already seen it).
Pads felt compelled to make a fifteen minute video explaining various reasons why his angle-shoot was not an angle-shoot; reasons ranging from patch-size related stress, to the broken air-con, to a sibling-esque relationship of mutual understanding with his opponent (Luigi Shehadeh) in the hand.
Pleno’s video was not as full of self-indulgent eye-grease and drum n bass snippets as Torelli’s, but it amounted to the same thing, a waffly, unlikely story carefully scripted to paint the protagonist-writer in any other colour except Midnight Poop.
The difference is, I want to believe Patrick, for no other reason than I like him.
Torelli always comes across as a soulless demon of celebrity whoredom, who would lubricate his own grandmother’s decrepit limbs to better facilitate using her entire body as his private slippy-slide into a position of fame and recognition.
Leonard, on the other hand, presents as a cheeky young chap, recognisable due to his passion for (and skill at) poker, coupled with a down to earth and immediately endearing personality. Yes, he speaks weird, but he’s from Newcastle, UK; they have long-standing issues with enunciation and the rest of Britain has forgiven them.
My instant reaction is to say that Torelli must have been angle-shooting (because imo he’s a slimy weirdo) and Leonard wasn’t (because imo he’s a lovely young man).
That would be a bullshit assessment; because an angle is an angle whether it’s performed by a devil or a saint.
I take interest in any disputes, I like poker rules, I like nitty discussions about minute points, and over my years in poker, I’ve never seen a change in the level of vitriol that an angle-shoot (perceived or actual) fires up in poker players.
When it was my job to bring down the final hammer on an angle-shoot ruling, I tried to apply thoughts from three separate areas of consideration:
Intent is a dreaded word for TDs, because it’s almost impossible to prove one way or another.
With regards to this hand, Pleno later claimed he intended to get information for future confrontations with Shehadeh, not to gain any immediate unfair advantage in this specific hand.
If this is a true representation of Pleno’s intent, then his action would not be an angle-shoot, it would be part of some high-level meta-game strategy that I’m not capable of understanding (most TDs wouldn’t understand it either, we’re not all Kenny Hallaert).
The only way Patrick could prove his intent here would be if the guy insta-mucked and then Pads released his own cards without any comment as Shahadeh received the pot; if this had happened, no-one could now be accusing Leonard of an angle-shoot… but it didn’t.
I can’t prove his intent either way here, so had I been the TD watching the hand and Shehadeh HAD been an inexperienced player and HAD insta-mucked, I’d have put my career on the line to ensure Shahadeh got the pot after what I’d just witnessed Patrick say and do.
If a player is relying on proven intent as their defense, they’d best be able to actually prove it, cos otherwise I’m ruling on what my eyes and ears tell me, and in this case, based on that info alone, it would seem that Patrick clearly shot an angle.
I personally believe the intent to angle-shoot was absent in this hand with Pleno, but it did look shifty, and years of experience tell me that most poker players will attempt to take maximum advantage of any genuine confusion created, whatever their initial intent and however lovely they are.
I can’t prove that’s the case with Leonard here, but he can’t disprove it, and it would be important to me as a TD that he not benefit from a grey area he created, whatever his original intent.
A good poker player will be attuned to taking advantage of ambiguity.
Any grey area represents a potentially unclaimed edge, and the sharpest minds in the game are experts at never missing an edge, however small.
Most people only have an issue with this when a player starts to create the ambiguity themselves, not with bet sizing or tricky lines, but by actively perverting the mechanics of the game, especially as it is only likely effective on a player who knows less about the rules than the angler.
If a player is accused of an angle-shoot, it’s always worth working out what their potential benefit is; the greater the potential benefit, the more valuable the angle-shoot, which increases the likelihood of an angle-shoot.
This might seem harsh to some players, but we are all products of our empirical experience and this is what a decade and a half of exposure to poker players has taught me: they never leave any value on the table.
In this exact spot, the potential benefit to Pads was huge, it’s exactly the sort of situation where a player might be desperate to pull off an angle.
When you bet 3 x pot on the turn and get snapped, you need the nuts or an angle on the river, cos without one of those, you’re not winning that monies.
Maybe Pads is as pure as Snow White’s honeypot, but circumstantial evidence is not on his side here; if there was ever a situation where the moral fortitude of even the most honourable poker player was to have its foundations threatened, this is it.
What we see from Leonard in this hand is a verbal version of “the fake action angle”, potentially used to get information/action from an opponent by intimating that the hand is over, knowing you can say “I never said call/fold” if it all goes off.
This is one of the original angles, so old-skool and crusty that it will only still actually work on the greenest of noobz.
There is no way this angle was ever working on Shehadeh.
No, never; not even if the guy was tired, someone had made him wear a brand-patch the size of a peanut and the aircon had gone rogue and started stabbing people.
To suggest Patrick seriously thought Shehadeh was gonna muck because he said “you got it” is to say he’s an idiot, which he clearly is not. The known experience of his opponent and Patrick’s own experience provides evidence to suggest that this action was not an angle from Pleno.
When two players have played a lot together, they often develop a unique dynamic that seems odd to those of us outside their personal poker relationship.
If the other guy at the table was not caused any genuine confusion, and none of the other players saw it as an angle in the context of a friendly table that none of us were at, perhaps it’s not a problem (assuming there is no softplay or collusion that is detrimental to the tournament equity of the rest of the players in the field).
It could be said, in this case, given their previous dynamic, the guy was re-angle-shooting Leonard… but then we’re back to questioning intent and the cycle begins again.
I guess we can all agree none of this would have even been a discussion if Leonard hadn’t said “you got it” whilst keeping hold of his cards and staring at Shehadeh as if he had a dick drawn on his forehead.
As my beloved old mam says, “If you don’t like cold air, don’t open the door”, and whatever Leonard actually intended to achieve by his words and actions in this hand, he certainly opened the door on the angle-shoot discussion.
Angle-shooting is a grey area, but, like it or not, it’s also an established part of live poker, so when 2+2 react as if this sort of activity is the “ultimate disgrace to the game”, and refer to a fantastic ambassador for poker as “a scumbag” for doing something that happens all the time, in every live card game, it’s unnecessarily histrionic.
Pleno got caught being a bit cheeky and silly on a live stream, he’s not murdered any children, let’s keep some perspective.
Call me a cynic, but the commentators raising their petticoats on stream definitely helped whip up the stink around the situation. It’s probably worth noting they were working for PokerStars and commentating on a PartyPoker rep during a very dry part of the tournament with no face up cards for the third day in a row.
No shade on the PokerStars team, I think they were bored, not vindictive, but I think this point is at least marginally relevant.
Pleno is a good lad and I think he should be given the benefit of the doubt in this case, and not referred to as a “scumbag”.
Frankly, if that’s the best angle-shoot Patrick Leonard’s got, I’m not worried because we all spotted it, right?
I think we should all be more concerned about serious, competent and sly angles from pro-players away from feature tables, hidden in the depths of the field.
If the “fake-action” angle is so outdated that Leonard is cocky enough to attempt to throw it out live on stream as a post-poker ironic joke, the mind boggles as to what’s happening out there that us less experienced players are not spotting.
Maybe neither Torelli nor Leonard were angle-shooting.
Maybe they both were.
Maybe one was and one wasn’t.
Either way, that single action does not define them entirely as a human being, or even as a poker player.
I spent some time trying to wrap that up with an excellent and brutal Utilitarian analogy but ended up with nothing more than this as a final conclusion on this topic:
If Chris Ferguson gets to be called 2017 Player of The Year then anyone within the community now has to work pretty fucking hard to rip folk off enough to be called a “scumbag”.