There is a dark side of poker that somehow never gets discussed in many writings and it is usually because most poker writers are in denial. If they do discuss the less than glamorous elements it is the cheating that is highlighted. Things such as dealing from the bottom of the deck or collusion between players. All which are despicable but somehow when written about, seem to put the other aspect in a better light and minimise the evil nature people take on to win, implying that it happens but only by people with morals of a Ferengi .
However, the real dark side of poker is the death wish some poker players have or all poker players have exhibited at some time or other. I call it poker potlatch which is a religious practice of native Americans and can be described as either giving charity to others or destroying wealth to show power. The bit I see as similar to a poker trait is the destroying a chip stack to prove that a poker player can ‘gamble’ and is crazy.
Let me be clear poker potlatch is not about varying play to make an opponent unsure about the reads he or she has of you. It is about a deliberate reckless play because the chips has no value for that moment of time! The reason why writers of poker never really discuss this is that this habit is frightening. Why would you deliberately destroy money? In the end the collective wisdom of poker sages is that a player who does this is either on 'tilt’ (IE. they have lost their mind due to some unfortunate play or luck) or they are just bad players.
Poker potlatch is not about varying play to make an opponent unsure about the reads he or she has of you. It is about a deliberate reckless play because the chips has no value for that moment of time!
I have seen and done poker potlatch and even though you do this, it is strangely liberating. It says that ‘I dont care about money’ and ‘I am the ultimate risk taker’. When it comes off, as it sometimes do, it emboldens a player to do more until some interferring event happens like a smack in the mouth or telephone call from a partner is made. It is a very weird feeling indeed.
Right now I can feel a wave of indignation enveloping me from people who are in denial about poker potlatch. That there is no way they have done such a thing and doing such things is the action of a donk and must be exploited for all its worth. Believe me I would exploit a situation like this myself. On top of this I would not make fun or even comment on their play. I would slowly and meticulously take as much money as I can until they snap out of the phase – it is only the right thing to do!
They maybe be having mental problems or having self-hate issues. They maybe having relationship problems or they maybe suicidal and this is a way of ‘committing suicide’ without committing suicide. Or they feel like ‘Masters of The Universe’ and see what they are doing as a plan to win greater money back at a later date because it is a trap to lure the unsuspecting opponents. The root reason for this behaviour is varied. The only thing that sticks out is the wilful destruction of poker chips or money. Like I have said I have seen many people do this and I have done this myself.
Online poker makes being in a ‘poker potlatch’ mode very easy. When you’re online you are anonymous and alone.
Maybe this is why poker is still seen as a gambling game and not a game of psychology? When you speak to people, even educated people like legislators, they see poker as a game of chance. Quite clearly it is not a game of chance as the same players will feature at the top of a table of winners just as the best football team will feature at the top of a football league. The league table never lies.
This could be the heart to the problem of what is happening in the US with online poker. Online poker makes being in a ‘poker potlatch’ mode very easy. When you’re online you are anonymous and alone. You can do whatever you want and no one can give you a look or comment on your behaviour if you don’t want to see text messages. Maybe things will change when Poker 2.0 becomes a reality but at the moment you can poker potlatch all you want and all you have to do is change username and site and no one will know.
Obviously all of what I have written is purely anecdotal but there is a large element of qualitative research in my observation. It is just I didn’t know what to call it until some academic relayed the concept of potlatch to explain the reason why bankers went into casino mode with the worlds finances. The Cardiff University academic Dr Paul Crosthwaite in a article for Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. This got me thinking about the times I and others have done this exact same thing.
I remember one particular individual who literally threw his chips away and she constantly did this. She also played the fruit machines and drank a lot. She loved the feeling of liberation it gave her. It’s as if the money was tainted and needed to be cleaned. Maybe it was the way she acquired the money that made her feel that she had to ‘spread the wealth’ or that she needed to beat the system by smashing it into submission, who knows? All that seemed to happen was that if she won it was like she was unbeatable and you heard about it all day long, forgetting the previous sessions when she ended up basically handing over her wages to whoever was the lucky recipient.
Click here for more from The Poker Knave
Click here for more stories about Life
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook