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Monday, May 23, 2005

Silly Position Effects in Live Low-Limit Play
In her visit to Foxwoods on Friday, B witnessed a phenomenon at the $2/$4 tables that we've encountered several times before: At the low low limits, where players are either clueless and/or playing just for kicks, you tend to make friends with the players next to you and enemies out of the players across from you.

There is no rational reason for this. The player on your left has the biggest advantage over you out of everyone at the table, and eveything else being equal, the players on either side of you are the ones you should be picking on most. But the players next to you are the ones you end up making conversation with.

What usually happens is that one of the players next to you will feel the need to make under-his-breath comments about the play of the players across from you. A little less often, this will evolve into general chit-chat. Either way, it often develops into an "us vs. them" vibe at the table. It's most pronounced between the players at the two far ends of the table. Many times I've sat down at a low-limit table where one end of the table is disgusted with the maniacal pay of the other-end players or, alternatively, one end considers itself the fun end of the table and is frowning on the rockish play at the other end.

Eye contact is also a big factor. When the guy across from you raises you it just seems more aggressive, more personal, because he's looking right at you. I see this happen in board games all the time -- if it's any kind of war game, you can expect the players across from each other to duke it out first, even though it's the player on your left you should be most worried about. Even if you're playing smart and not letting this silly macho dynamic affect your poker game, you should be aware that most low-limit players are letting it affect them. Bottom line is, you're more likely to get re-raised by, or have your raise called down by, the player across from you than a player who's not in your direct line of sight.

Compound this with the conversation factor and the effect is really pronounced. The guy on your left raises you and you're saying "Mike, you're killing me here!" and everything is jovial. You've made friends with Mike so there's less chance he's just bullying you, plus you can often use the table talk to glean some info. Compare how often you see two players who are next to each other cap it, vs. two players who are across from each other. With two players across from each other, there's usually little chit-chat because they don't "know" each other as well, plus they can't do any table-talk without the whole table hearing, and then the other player just perceives it as posturing. So they let their actions speak for them, which leads to capping. And if there's a staredown, forget about it. The distrust and aggression between those two players is likely to last until one of the players leaves (or switches seats).

IMO, anyone who says that live low-limit play is just automatic and that there's no playing the players is ignoring some basic social dymanics. Or not doing a very good job of chatting up Mike.


this might make thursday nights a bit more entertaining as everyone decides to take their hands all the way out :)

oh the excitement!
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