Bust Out Characters
There are few times more emotional in a poker player’s life than when they bust out of a tournament. Most poker psychology books point out that when you’re at your lowest emotional ebb, that’s when the real you comes out.
While in Vegas for this WSOP, I’ve studied the various types of bust out there are, from the crazy outbursts to the reserved introspection. Playing in one of the WSOP $1k NLHE tournaments is an education in itself. The phrase dropping like flies is any understatement. About once a minute some forlorn looking figure, shuffles past your table to the rail, manically typing away on their iPhone.
Here’s my classification of the different types of character as they bust out:
Toys out of pram
Sitting there rock still, trying to be even-keeled about the outrageous swings for hours on end without raising so much as an eyebrow – let’s face it, that’s going to bury some emotions. When some people bust, it’s an excuse for them to vent all that sublimated emotion.
One of the common reactions is to shove one’s chips away angrily. I’ve even seen certain players throw their chips at the player who busted them. Certainly, most dealers have had players’ hands thrown back at them in disgust. It’s all a bit toys out of pram to be honest, but hey – who hasn’t been there at least once?
Toys out of pram 2: The Hellmuth
Bollocks to the whole “like him or hate him, he’s good for the game” notion. The way he conducts himself sometimes is pitiful. My least favourite of his antics is when he carries on even after he’s busted. Not only is this prolonging his limelight in an unnecessary way, it’s just really childish. He’s basically saying “Mum! Mum! Somebody hurt me!!”
Please tell me it isn’t over
Certain players (usually nice, quiet people who don’t play that much poker) have a real problem assimilating the idea that they’re out. They stay in their seat even after the next hand is deal, or take an age to get up and wend their weary way off.
I busted a lady at the Unibet Open Warsaw who didn’t get up out of her seat for about the next five hands. Towards the end it was beginning to get a bit embarrassing.
At the beginning I was saying to myself: sure, it’s tough to deal with, especially if she satellited in or something and this is a huge tournament for her. But as time wore on I bet everyone at the table was thinking: is someone going to have to ask her to vacate her seat?
Thankfully, she eventually got up. It was only then that I saw that she was pregnant. So in addition to having crushed her poker dreams, I’m a child murderer; is that what you’re saying?
Mr Hand Shakey Man
Usually a businessman who suffers outrageous swings in his chip stack and is a terrible poker player, it’s quite clear that he’s here to have a good time. This is the kind of guy who when he luckboxes fifth place in a big tournament for something like $70k is nothing more than pleasantly surprised. “Hey – I got a nice little bonus too!” he thinks.
No matter when this guy busts out, no matter how bad the beat or how many chips he had two rounds ago, he’s always gracious in defeat. He goes around the table shaking everyone’s hand – including his conqueror – without any bitterness.
Not such a nice guy after all
This is just good old fashioned bitterness but not in the flamboyant and childish manner of The Hellmuth. I could well call this The “Pickleman” but I won’t be too cocky about a part of my game which I should be ashamed of. I’m usually as nice as pie at the table – being friendly, not worry too much about beats –but occasionally I can bust out and react by criticising my opponent.
When I busted out of the $2.5k PLO/PLH at the World Series this year, I had my all in shove on the turn with an inside wrap and a flush draw called by top pair. My opponent (a nice guy who had even helped me earlier by giving me some of his cold remedy) was pretty pleased with his call, and a couple of others at the table where impressed too. I wasn’t (especially after I didn’t hit my draw) and said it was a lucky call. Bad Alex.
Storming off in disgust
This is the calling card of the ridiculously active internet kid. Having 4-bet shoved all in with 87s, he’s outraged that his opponent, a nitty pensioner from Florida has made the call with AJo.
Before there’s even a chance to say “GG”, he’s bolted off, weaving between the bloggers and the railers, disappearing out of sight in two seconds flat. Whether it’s the embarrassment of being called, his alacrity to share the “bad beat” story over a vodka/Red Bull with his mates at the bar, or just that – like everything an internet kid does – he operates at the speed of light, at least he never gets to feel small.
According to one of the bloggers at this year’s World Series, they saw some young guy actually in tears walking away from the table. I must confess the first time I busted from a WSOP event I wasn’t feeling too happy. It was made even worse by the fact that I’d never played more than a $500 tournament before. But actually bursting into tears is taking it to a new level. Who knows – maybe that’s what we all should be doing?
I don’t really know whether this puts it in perspective or not. Yes, there are a lot of emotions in the game, and having a total breakdown sounds like a little too much, but who are we too criticise? Part of the reason we come back for more is the compulsive nature of this emotional rollercoaster. Without any of that, it would be quite easy to say “nice hand, good game”. And mean it.
This article first appeared in Bluff Europe magazine.