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Top-10 worst types of people to have at your poker table

3 November 2014

If you've been watching the 2014 World Series of Poker coverage on ESPN, you've seen a wide variety of personalities at the poker tables. Whether it was Curtis Rystadt's verbal battle with Kyle Keranen, or Bryan Devonshire's laid-back style (he told Leif Force that he was happy to play with him because he's the only person left in the tournament who's a dirtier hippie than he was), ESPN has really done a great job giving players a glimpse into who the players at this year's tournament really are.

Most of the players I've been following have been a pleasure to watch. None gets higher marks than Devonshire, and not just for his comment to Leif Force. He also gave the award-winning Chinese restaurant at the Gold Coast — Ping Pang Pong — a shout-out, and then told another player after he busted him out of the tournament that his carotid artery "goes nuts" when he has a big hand.

However, there has been some less than stellar behavior at the table as well. Rystadt's back-and-forth with Keranen didn't paint either player in a particularly flattering light, and Aaron Kaiser's delaying tactics in an attempt to make a money jump were absolutely ridiculous.

Poker is fun when everyone at the table is doing their best to make it fun. Unfortunately, some players don't do a very good job of keeping everyone else at the table happy. Here are the 10 worst people in the world to have at your poker table.

10. The failed comedian
I can't seem to find video evidence anywhere, but during one recent WSOP, Kevin Pollak was involved in one of the most painfully awkward moments in televised poker history. He was telling a story, and it was taking forever. The story was supposed to be funny, but eventually no one was listening anymore, because it didn't make sense and it seemed to span two or three hands.

I'll admit that I've been this guy way too many times, though usually more often with friends in my home game than with strangers at a casino. Luckily my friends know me well enough to call me out for it when it happens.

If you're telling a story to two or three people near you, you can go a little long, especially if none of them are involved in a hand. But if you're broadcasting the story to the whole table, a good general rule of thumb is to keep it under 30 seconds or so, and don't start until the table is between hands. You don't want significant action at the table before you're halfway to the punch line.

9. The smelly guy
I get it. You're in the middle of a poker bender. You haven't had a shower or slept for days. For some strange reason you're proud of this.

You shouldn't be.

You're ruining the day for everyone around you, and there's a very good chance you're not playing your best, either. So do us both a favor; go get some sleep, and for God's sake take a shower and put on some deodorant.

8. The social butterfly
This phenomenon is most commonly seen in big tournaments where players who are either regulars at the casino or traveling grinders know many of the other players in the field, especially in the early levels. Players get up and shake hands, exchange man hugs and say hello. I'm usually okay with that, so long as it doesn't slow down the action.

What really bothers me, though, are players who insist on shouting across the room to friends at other tables. Mike Matusow is frequently guilty of this poker crime.

I played in a tournament at Foxwoods last year and had 2007 Foxwoods Poker Open champion Raj Patel on my left. A player at another table kept yelling to him for the first five levels.

"I don't even really know who that guy is," Raj said to me. "I wish he would shut up."

So did everyone else in the room. So do yourself a favor; if you want to talk to someone and they're not at your table, wait until you can fold your hand preflop, then get up, make sure they're not in a hand, and go over and say what you've got to say. Otherwise, just wait for a break.

7. The fortune-teller
Some people seem to think they can influence what cards are going to show up on the flop, turn or river by calling for them. Those people are wrong. I get that you need to catch a diamond on the river to make your flush and win the hand. And I'm honestly okay with you saying something to the effect of "C'mon, diamond!" But it drives me nuts when people get incredibly specific.

"Jack of diamonds! Jack of diamonds!"

Who are you? Waylon Jennings? Are you going to be upset if you hit the deuce of diamonds and still win the pot?

The only time this has ever been entertaining was when Daniel Negreanu actually called running cards to make a straight flush.



6. The know-it-all
This guy won't shut up at the table, and you’d better agree with whatever he says, or he's going to go on and on about how you're wrong. He could be talking about politics, religion, how to play poker, or just about anything. It's driving you nuts that he's spewing so much garbage, and that he's wrong 95 percent of the time. You'd like to tell him how wrong he is and school him like Will Hunting in a Harvard bar, but you're better off just letting him spout off, taking all his chips and then hearing the rest of the table sigh in relief as you just got rid of the table blowhard.

5. The tank
Sometimes poker decisions take awhile. Most of the time they don't. I don't begrudge someone taking a minute or two to sort out whether they should call off the rest of their chips. But when someone takes forever when they have to make an obvious decision, it gets pretty frustrating. Everyone at the table loses patience with serial offenders, and while "poker etiquette" may state that you shouldn't call the clock on another player, that same etiquette says you shouldn't put everyone else out at the table by taking forever to decide what you're going to do.

4. The bitter loser
Over the summer, I was playing at a fun $4/$8 H.O.R.S.E. table at the Venetian. A middle-aged woman sat down next to me and we traded a few niceties. It turned out that even though we were in Las Vegas, we actually lived about 30 minutes away from each other. I thought she seemed nice … until I beat her in a pot.

I held queen-jack of diamonds in the Hold'em round and flopped a flush. I bet, she raised, and I re-raised. She just called my turn and river bets, and after I turned over the winning hand, she turned over an inferior flush. Then she went nuts.

"Sure, go ahead, flop the world!" she yelled, decrying her "bad luck." Never mind that I was ahead of her the entire time. Sure, it sucks to flop a flush and lose, but that's poker. She spent the next 20 minutes berating my poker ability, telling me that I was the luckiest player she'd ever played against. This was the most bitter person I'd played with in a long time. Thankfully, I had dinner plans with a friend, so I didn't have to play with her for long.

Losing isn't fun. I get it. But making everyone else at the table miserable just because you aren't winning isn't cool.

3. The dealer berater
It's never the dealer's fault that you're losing. Dealers don't control the cards you're dealt, or more importantly, how you play them. If you throw your cards, yell at the dealer, or blame the dealer for your own misfortune, I will openly root for you to lose every hand you play.

2. The angle shooter
There are many levels of angle shooting. None of them are okay. If you can't win without trying to manipulate the rules in such a way that they favor you, then learn to cope with being a losing player, or just stop playing. You're giving everyone who plays poker a bad name, and you're making the experience miserable for everyone else at your table, including the recreational players who probably will decide to stop playing, because they can't figure out a way to beat the cheaters.

1. The racist
I've played with people who have spouted racist comments before, and it's incredibly awkward. Looking back, I'm disappointed that I never said anything to point out that the comments were not okay. I certainly didn't go along, but it can be hard to confront someone you've never met before, and likely won't ever see again.

But that doesn't mean that you should just let those comments go. Instead of being one of seven or eight people sitting silently, speak up. Pretty soon you'll see that almost everyone else at the table is on your side, and the idiot spouting ignorant statements will shut up real fast.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.