What Happened to Creating a Good Atmosphere at the Poker Tables?

Playing-PokerFor a long time I’ve never really been able to put on my finger on the difference between poker when I got involved in the game (was bit by the bug in the late 1990’s and then really into it by about 2001) and the what the game as evolved/devolved into nowadays; thankfully Daniel Negreanu is around to sum up what I’ve been thinking in a few sentences in a recent interview with Bluff Europe:

I miss the old days. I think poker was in a better place in the old days. Not just because of the fact that we had more personalities, but people came from different walks of life, whereas today the story is the same. The social aspect isn’t quite there… Personalities in poker just aren’t as unique any more.

While that is the general gist of the matter, there are plenty of reasons this lack of “personality” has been exacerbated.

It’s not all about profit

One such way this problem has been made worse is the black and white way people look at making money at the poker tables. Players no longer feel the need to wine and dine their opponents, and to not mix analogies, they prefer to just have their fun with them and move on to the next conquest.

I think as an “older” player I remember the days when there wasn’t always another conquest waiting in the wings, and it was important to keep the game going. The players of today have never faced this problem, so their social skills, and their ability to schmooze their opponents is almost nonexistent; in fact, for many young players they take the complete opposite approach and have a open disdain for their opposition.

What if poker returns to 1990’s levels?

The first issue I see with players who disregard any type of social aspect of poker is that poker could possibly (not likely, but it is possible) to a place where the games are hard to find and the pickings are slim. If this talent, this ability to create a fun gambling atmosphere, is lost I feel that the game will lose even more traction.

And truthfully, what edge are you really giving up by talking, or acting quickly when you have a simple decision to make? As Daniel pointed out when Bluff Europe asked him about his biggest pet peeve:

I think a lot of the younger players are just wasting time, and then they’re going on about ‘balancing their timing tells’. I’m like, you don’t know shit about tells, okay? You’re an internet geek, and now you’re wasting all of our time. You’re killing the structure and making it a less skilful event, because we’re playing 20% fewer hands.

It sucks…

The second issue I see with this type of anti-social poker is that it sucks on so many levels.

It sucks to sit at a table and know the five guys with their hoodies and their headphones, (who haven’t spoken a word in two hours) are making the couple of casual players uncomfortable –I can see it written all over their faces.

And it sucks that I have to sit there while they count to ten before folding their hand every single time.

And it sucks that they snicker at bad plays and make people even more uncomfortable, by looking down upon them.

And finally, it sucks that along with making some money I actually enjoy the social aspects of poker, but this is being taken away from me. When I quit playing poker for a living in late 2006 I thought I was burnt out on the game; that I had hit my limit. But now I’m thinking this might not be the case? Maybe the real problem was I just wasn’t able to have fun anymore; the unconventional line of work I had chosen was no longer fun because the social element was already disappearing by 2006 –or worse being replaced with garish behavior brought on by the WSOP antics ESPN was so fond of highlighting during this period.

Personally, I would rather make $50,000 a year and love going to work each day than to make $80,000 and go home mad, depressed, or irritated every day. More to the point; if poker isn’t fun, less peopled are going to play it, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to create a fun atmosphere.

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