Love Your Donkey Neighbour

By Tom "TIME" Leonard | September 14, 2009

Love your neighbor. Okay… we’ve all heard that well worn aphorism but allow me to add… especially if he is a donkey. I’m sure everyone is aware that berating donkey’s at the poker table is not smart. It is certainly boorish but worse than that, players who indulge in that exercise are actually biting the hand the feeds them. I did say everyone but I guess I must be wrong as I continue to see this behavior both live and on the internet. Hey, as one good example… the Poker Brat himself, Mr. Phil… I can’t recall his last name at the moment, apparently never got the memo as he is famous for his rants denigrating opponent’s play. As the saying goes, you just can’t fix stupid!

Have you ever been running bad and asked yourself, “How can I be losing?” When this occurs it is more than being on a losing streak which normally prompts the question. It is the fact that real, or imagined, you believe that you should be a favorite at the table on which you are playing. All poker players realize that they will not win every single session they play but when they look around and view the competition as a herd of donkeys, losing becomes a tough pill to swallow. You believe in your heart that you are playing superior poker to your opponents and should be dominating them but instead are losing. The vagaries of poker can sometimes be frustrating but remember it is that very fact that keeps the losers coming back. The key is what you do about it that counts.

If you review your own game, checking for insidious leaks that might have snuck in and make the assessment that you’re playing solid poker and are losing to opponents who are playing weak, undisciplined poker and just getting lucky, then take solace in the fact that this should only be a temporary state of affairs. Hunker down and let the storm pass and don’t succumb to the temptation to lower yourself to their starting hand standards because they seem to be getting lucky.

I like to think I excel at multi-tasking as I tend to perform multiple tasks on a regular basis. That is the positive spin I like to put on what surely is ADD … Attention Deficit Disorder. As I work on the word processor, balance my checkbook, watch the news, I also like to play some poker. No surprise there! I recently clicked into a small stakes limit hold’em game when an interesting hand highlighting the above occurred. I was two seats off the big blind when a player to my right who was under the gun came in for two bets. I had a suited Ace–Jack and decided to clear the field and made it three bets. Everyone folded around to the blinds who both called as did the original under the gun raiser. I flopped an Ace and two of my suit. Flopping top pair, decent kicker along with the nut flush draw and position, wasn’t too shabby.

It was checked to me and I bet, the small blind called and both other players folded. A blank fell on the turn and the betting pattern was once again … check, I bet and the small blind called. The river was a five which paired a five that was part of the flop and my flush draw didn’t make it. The small blind now bet out and I made a crying call. My opponent turned up a 6-5 offsuit and won the pot with three fives. Now if you don’t think that is sick, let’s recap quickly. He called two and half more bets pre-flop, a bet on the flop, a bet on the turn and then rivered a five all while an Ace was sitting out there and the three bettor (that would be me!) bet on every street.

This is when I said to myself, “How can I be losing?” Of course, when weak players chase and connect it just reinforces for them that they can succeed playing in this manner. As I realized that truism, I said to myself, “Love your neighbor … especially, if he is a donkey.” We can all be reminded from time to time that poker is a marathon not a sprint. When these kind of suckouts occur, instead of tilting, glean something useful from the experience. In this case, I realized I could value bet this fish all day long, as hitting two outers as a strategy is far from a positive expectation endeavor.

Love your neighbor if he is doing everything within his power to enhance your poker bankroll. Sure, on occasion he will hit his long shot and cause some pain, but so what … that’s poker. Continuing to play solid, disciplined poker even when it seems that the rest of the table has gone mad is the game plan of winners. While solid, disciplined play may not win every sprint, it sure as hell will win the marathon!

By Tom "TIME" Leonard

Tom has been writing about poker since 1994 and has played across the USA for over 40 years, playing every game in almost every card room in Atlantic City, California and Las Vegas.


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