Headphones and Tournament Poker Like Oil and Water

jason-grayAn interesting debate was recently hatched on Twitter (which seems to be the Standard Operating Procedure for an exchange of ideas these days) after PokerNews.com’s Donnie Peters questioned the reasoning/logic behind the World Series of Poker policy of not allowing headphones once the money is reached.

I agree wholeheartedly with Peters’ on this one, as it makes zero sense to allow headphones during perhaps the most important period of a tournament (the bubble) but not immediately after.

But this article isn’t about Peters’ legitimate complaint; this article is about headphones and electronic devices in general, and my longstanding zero-tolerance policy towards them:

My response spurred on what I would call a healthy debate (mainly between me and @TheWookieWay), and now I want to expand on my thoughts and offer them in more than 140 characters –since I suck at Twitter debates.

My reasons

This is actually a topic I’ve touched on in the past (ok, rambled on incessantly about in the past), so I won’t rehash my previous thoughts and I’ll just offer up an outline for those of you who don’t feel like clicking the link provided:

  • It slows down the game

How many times have you been playing with someone wearing headphones who had to be reminded the action was on them? It not only slows down the game but it’s also extremely annoying for the other players.

  • It causes confusion

Much like slowing down the game, think about how many times a player wearing headphones misses someone saying all-in, and then makes a bet and completely FUBAR’s up the entire hand, usually ending in a major argument and the floor being called.

The only reason this happens is because of headphones.

  • It invites cheating

This is a bit of a hypothetical, but there are plenty of viable and reasonable ways one could use electronics and headphones to cheat.

  • It makes poker even less social

For the last time, live poker is not online poker, and part of live poker is interacting with the other players.

The new argument: Shrinking numbers

This time around I’m going to focus entirely on headphones, which I disapprove of for all of the above reasons, but I also need to refute some of the reasons others have made FOR the use of headphones.

The biggest complaint is that the numbers might shrink, something poker definitely doesn’t need right now. Unfortunately, I don’t buy this argument one bit.

The players that show up to the poker tables wearing headphones are hardcore poker players (or poker player wannabes who have seen pros wear headphones, so they wear headphones) and while they will certainly moan and groan about having to sit through a 12+ hour poker tournament without having the distraction of music, they will eventually get over it… just like they’ve gotten over every other gripe they’ve had.

So barring headphones will certainly cause complaining, and may see a few players decide to play elsewhere, but this should be more than made up for by the appeal the banning of headphones will have on recreational players –in my opinion of course.

My other point I made on Twitter was that poker was played sans headphones for over 150 years, and there didn’t seem to be any need to find something to distract you while you played poker.

Here’ is where I’m, going to get preachy: Why are you playing poker if you find it so boring? And how can you find live poker so boring?

My god people, there is so much going on at a live poker table during every hand, not to mention the option to talk to other people at the table –I know, novel idea– there is simply no reason to put on a pair of headphones. I would find listening to music for 12 hours far more boring than playing poker.

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