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Biggity-Bet Yo'self Before You Wreck Yo'self

In my most recent trip to the Wall Street Game, well over a week now, or so it feels, I got into a delicate conversation with some of the other players about soft-playing. Specifically, the person, a regular poker player, was discussing how they like to check down hands with friends when playing in casinos. I was appauled. I come from the school of cut throat poker. Once you sit at the table, I make it my goal, in fact, my sole goal (not to be confused with Soul Glow, picture inset) to take your money. If you are a foe, I want your money. If you are a friend, I want your money. If you are my dying grandmother trying to earn enough money for your medication, I want your money, bitch!

At times, I've come across tables where a couple of obvious friends check down hands. This blows my mind. In my head, I'm screaming collusion. I know that in reality, there is little harm in checking down a hand with a friend once it is heads-up. Or, at least, on first glance there is little effect by such an act. (A latent effect will be discussed in a moment). However, the act just looks suspicious, and whenever I have seen it, I made a mental note to watch certain players extra carefully, and if necessary move tables.

From an outsiders perspective, softplaying a friend suggests that there may be greater collusion taking place. It is highly unlikely, given that pre-planned collusion would likely involve players acting like they did not know each other, as opposed to a very public check down. Still, watching two players flaunt their relationship at the very least lets me know that they are not gunning for each other, something that is highly relevant in certain multi-way pots.

But here is the part I do not understand: What is the benefit of checking it down? The knee jerk answer is that there is less risk AND, ironically, your friends money means less to you than other people's money, since presumably there will be some guilt or other negative association attached to taking your friend's cash. However, by checking it down, players are giving up control of a hand, something that I recently rallied against when I questioned checking in the dark. I have seen on more than one occassion a player check it down with a friend, even though one of them (or both) have monster hands. Why would you let your friend see free cards, potentially taking money out of your pocket? Please, someone answer that. It leaves me baffled.

Your softplay isn't harmless either. The most obvious latent effect is that it can reduce the amount of chips on a table. Case in point, I once saw two guys check it down when one had AA and the other had a pocket pair and hit a set. This blew my mind and infuriated me because had the players been playing poker instead of circle jerk, one of them would have probably busted and either rebought or (preferably) left the table crying as some new jabroni sat down with a fresh stack of chips. Now, granted, the softplayers couldn't give two shits about what I want, but by the same token, I am sitting in a public poker room to play poker, dipshits, not to watch you two chat while sipping your slow gin fizz.

So, please, I beg you, help me understand why people softplay their friends? I know the usual answer is, "I don't want to win my friends money; I want to win everybody else's money." But aside from that self-serving (and self-boobytrapping) argument, what have you got. Give me one logical way that checking it down with a friend is a smart play, in the context of poker. Because at the table, my friend is not my friend; he is my opponent. Afterwards, he can be my friend and I'll pay for dinner (with his money) and gas, but at the table, its pure business.

Until next time, make mine poker!

An Addendum: I tended to flip flop in this post between the terms, "softplay" and "checking it down." There is a significant difference, so for the sake of argument, let's assume within the context of this post, all references refer to the check-down issue.

posted by Jordan @ 5:01 PM,


At 6:47 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I liked this post. You brought up a good point I never thought about when you mentioned how slowplaying can keep rebuys off the table. Nice one.

A note though. At my table, the softplay was even more egregious because, as I remember, there was a third party all-in at the time.

Or maybe that was just me in Florida a few months ago.

At 2:40 AM, Blogger BWoP said...

I hate it. Absolutely hate it.

First of all, when I sit down at a poker table, I am sitting down to play. It doesn't matter whose money is at stake. It doesn't matter how much I like (or don't like) the people that I'm playing against. I want to win (okay, perhaps that's uber competitive of me, but who cares). No way I'm giving free cards to anyone unless that's part of my betting line for the hand. Let's say I flop top set and you flop a flush draw. And I know that you are on a flush draw. Your flush doesn't hit on the turn. No way in hell I let you see the turn for free - unless I want to live on the edge.

On top of that, it's really annoying to and disrespectful of the other people at the table who don't get the luxury of avoiding turn and river bets. It can be viewed as highly collusive if there is another player or other players who are pushed out of the action only to see that the two players left in the hand are checking it down once everyone else is out of the way.

As for Jamie's point, there are times when you *should* check down a three-way hand when one player is already all-in, particularly in certain tournament situations. But that has nothing to do with checking down because it's your friend. It's checking down to try to eliminate a person from a tournament, particularly when neither player has the nuts (or close to nuts or super strong hand even if not the nuts).

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Astin said...

I've only done this during one session ever, and it was for entirely practical reasons: I needed the ride home.

A buddy invited me to go play poker at Niagara one Friday night, and I jumped at the chance. The thing is, we ended up going down with two of his buddies I'd never met, and these 3 had a retarded "check down except the nuts" rule with those you drove down with. They took it pretty seriously, and I didn't feel like (a) pissing off new people who regularly made last-minute trips to the casino and (b) taking the bus home for 2 hours.

I hated every time it came to that, so eventually just made like I had the nuts or didn't realize they were in the hand and bet them out at every opportunity.

But ask CK, I don't play nice with friends at the table :).

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

This is why I don't mind playing poker with you.

Because I know we'll try to beat each other whenever we play. That means we work harder and we learn more.

See you in December.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

There are serious ethical considerations with soft play. Read this column in Card Player magazine to see what I mean:

At 12:59 PM, Blogger RaisingCayne said...

My hypocrisy has no bounds...

I absolutely hate witnessing any soft play. However, I also choose to threaten any friends that I may share a table with, with promises that if they play back at me in any pot I'll kick 'em in the shin, spit in their food, and spread random rumors about their pedophilic tendencies.

Oh, then I do my best to get involved in every pot they show interest in.

I'm a d*ck.

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Wolfshead said...

That is why I don't sit at casino tables with friends except maybe limit, low limit, tables. When I'm at a casino I'm looking to take as much as I can. I want to play with friends I'll do that at home games where you can keep things friendly and the stakes aren't as high.


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