Jesse checks in on our favorite everyman, VFW Joe, to see what he’s doing wrong this week, and what we can learn from it.
It’s a couple of hours into the nightly game at the VFW (or the weekly game, as the guys’ wives are told) and Joe is in the midst of yet another “unluckiest streak of (his) life”. The fishies are catching every river card and have stolen his blinds in each of the last 5 rounds (Joe always calls them “the fishies” so they don’t forget he’s really the best player at the table), and every time Joe has read weakness and expertly set them up for “the perfect bluff” they’ve ended up having THE ONE HAND they could’ve had that would call him. Joe just can’t catch a break, and as a new hand is being dealt, Joe can bite his tongue no longer:
VFW Joe: This is just goddamn ridiculous! I don’t know what else I can do! I’m playing perfectly and you guys just won’t stop sucking out on me! Don’t you know how bad it is to play that hand, Al?
Across the table Al silently collects his new hole cards, his eyes fixed downward. A very slight tension in one side of his mouth betray his attempt to conceal a grin.
VFW Joe: Seriously, I opened under the gun for 3x! Why would you call with QJo — and from middle position no less!? My range of hands there has you crushed! You’re just throwing away money!
Joe continues to pester Al, and the rest of the guys, about their questionable decisions for the next ten minutes…
…He “teaches” Chuck about pot odds and why it was stupid for him to call a pot-sized bet on the turn with just a flush draw (which hit, of course)…
…He shows Bob a chart that indicates which starting hands are playable from each position, “proving” that Bob was making a mistake when he opened from early position with K9s (the 9-K straight he made on the turn was just typical Bob luck)…
…He practically berates Don for calling a 3-bet preflop with 22. Steve (a “maniac”, according to Joe) opened for 3x and Joe (“expertly”, of course) re-raised to 8x from LP with ATo, at which point Don called from the BB with the 22 and took a huge pot after an A-T-2 flop.
Why I Am Better at Poker Than You, Reason #2
I Never Tap the Fishtank.
What VFW Joe is doing here is called “tapping the fishtank”. In poker, a true “fish” has a very loose-passive style (see my article on player types for more details), meaning they get involved in a lot of pots and aren’t very aggressive, tending to check and call rather than bet or raise (this makes it easy to take money from them, as they usually put a lot of money into pots chasing draws and/or holding weak hands, and they rarely force others to fold). However, the term “fish” has come to apply to any player who simply isn’t very good, regardless of their playing style.
The VFW game is chock-full of fishy players, and just like tapping on the tank tends to scare away literal fish, loudly and publicly berating fishy players tends to make them change their habits or, even worse, leave the game completely. That’s why doing so is called “tapping the fishtank”, and VFW Joe LOVES tapping the fishtank.
Don’t be VFW Joe.
Taking a rough beat can be frustrating: It can damage your ego, embarrass you, or make you feel insecure about your recent results at the table and how your friends/opponents may be regarding your skill level.
While it can be tempting, after taking such a beat, to let everyone at the table know exactly what “really happened” so that you can save face and/or ensure that none of your peers think you are the one who made a mistake, it’s important that you resist.
Always remember that, in poker, the only things that matter are the decisions you make when it’s your turn. Your decisions are the only thing you can control, and anything outside of them — like what cards show up on the turn/river or what decisions your opponents make — should not matter to you.
If you got all of your money in preflop with AA, you played a great hand. It doesn’t matter if your opponent called and sucked out on you with AQs or 66, there really isn’t anything you could have done about it. You each put a bunch of money into the pot: You with way the best of it, and him with way the worst of it. He screwed up. You didn’t.
Tapping the fishtank will, at best, only make you look bitter and condescending and, at worst, cause that opponent (and everyone else at the table) to think twice before putting their money in preflop with a mediocre hand, and both of those results will cost you money: The latter because your opponents will be plugging a hole in their games, and the former because who the fuck wants to play poker with someone who is bitter and condescending?
If Joe was a better poker player he wouldn’t even consider telling his buddies about the flaws in their games. Not only does it make him look like an asshole, but it makes it all the more likely they will work to correct those mistakes in the future (at least when they’re in a hand with Joe), and those mistakes are precisely why Joe should want to have those guys at the table.
Every time your opponents make a mistake, you win. Don’t tap the fishtank.
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