In the modern era, political campaigns feature bullying behavior that stifles anything approaching grace. But shouldn’t we expect more from our poker partners than we do from politicians? You bet we should! We’ve had to put up with bullies since we first attended school and found out we were not considered “cool”. Aggressive kids turn into aggressive adults and don’t always make the best poker buddies. Whether this is a minor annoyance or a major hassle pretty much depends on how you react.
In professional poker, bullying pays off, literally. If you can bully another player into folding despite a superior hand, you have turned a loss into a profit, and who cares whether everyone else at the table hates you. Of course, this kind of behavior will scare many new players to the point where they give up the game. These new players are prey for bullying players – they are known as “losers” or “suckers”. But even veteran players can be disturbed by bullies. It can shake your confidence when the guy next to you keeps raising your bet game after game and then goes all-in. How should you respond? Should you just find another game?
Don’t you dare – if you run, the bullies win. And you will get the reputation as an easy mark, a coward, a loser. No, there’s got to be a better reaction than running away with you tail between your legs. The better reaction is to gracefully ignore the bully. Play your hand the way you think you should, as if the bully wasn’t there. If you have a bad hand, just fold, don’t try to bluff. It’s better to play a long-term strategy than to go for a short-term cheap win. Bullies will try to read your tells. Your best defense is to mix things up, keep the bully guessing what you’re up to. Soon, they will be concentrating on you and neglecting their own game. You might not win, but you will escape alive.
Let’s face it, poker is a psychological game as much as a skill. But if you just stick to the skill portion and keep on improving, you’ll find that bullies affect you less and less. That’s when you graduate from amateur status. You will no longer be the patsy at the table, and bullies will look for someone else to pick on.