So, it’s been over 25 years since I attended my first BARGE gathering in Las Vegas. Don’t know about BARGE? I’ll tell you more about it some other time. All you need to know is it was (and is) a collection of poker degenerates who get together in Vegas to play poker, tell lies, and carouse until the wee hours. I bring this up because it gives you a lower bound on how long I’ve been hanging around poker players.
Which means I’ve been hearing bad beat poker stories that long.
Early on, I realized that I hated listening to bad beat poker stories. After you’ve heard the first half dozen, they’re all the same. You learn nothing from them, and they don’t provide any consolation to the teller. They’re a great waste of time and create negative energy.
But they seemed to be de rigueur among poker players, so I came up with a great idea: I charged $1 to listen to a bad beat poker story. Here’s how it went:
Random poker degenerate friend: “You won’t believe this. [actually, yes, I would]: I flop top two and…” Me: “Wait. Is this a bad beat story?” Degen: “Well, yeah, but…” Me: [extending hand] “Gimme a dollar, or one of us is leaving.”
I’m not making this up—there are people reading this article who have given me a dollar to listen and commiserate. Usually, though, the bad beaten player would go look for somebody who had a lower price to listen to his story. Generally, the price would be that person replying with, “Hey, you think that’s bad; listen to this…”
One r00ler did proffer a $100 bill and say, “I want to put you on retainer.”
Anyway, in reviewing my life’s priorities, I decided it was time to reevaluate my rates for listening to bad beat poker stories. In particular, I did this because I recently read the excellent book, Biggest Bluff, by Maria Konnikova. As I wrote previously in this blog, it is arguably the best narrative about poker ever written. But it also has plenty of practical advice for poker players.
Not least is her complete rejection of bad beat poker stories. To be fair, she started out like the rest of us—she got a set cracked in a tournament in Las Vegas and went to find her poker mentor, Erik Seidel, elsewhere along the Strip. I won’t spoil the exchange in the book by quoting it (it’s pitch-perfect and worth enjoying), but suffice it to say Seidel immediately shut her down. Which is not Erik’s M.O. Nope—it was specifically because she was starting into a bad beat poker story.
Erik’s point was bad beat poker stories serve no purpose, and just bring toxic energy to the listener (again, his words deserve to be read on the page). It was what I’d always known about bad beat poker stories, and it was damn affirming to hear them spoken by a legend of the game.
Well, if it’s good enough for Erik Seidel, it’s good enough for me. But I don’t have Erik’s reputation and standing (by, you know, some orders of magnitude). So, I can’t completely avoid them.
But I can make them dear.
My new price for listening to a bad beat poker story: $100. One hundred American dollars. But even at that price, I’m not willing to just let that toxic energy out into the universe. So, here’s the deal: you wanna tell me a bad beat poker story—break out your phone and let me see you donate that $100 to some worthy charity.
Now you can tell your story—I’ll nod and grimace at the appropriate times. But we’ll both really be thinking about the good your $100 is doing in the world. Like getting a flu shot—there’s a quick sting, but long-lasting positive effect.
Those of you who’ve been getting the $1 price, no grandfather clause. $100 to charity.
But better, I would encourage you to consider what Erik Seidel said about bad beat poker stories and avoid them altogether. They cloud your brain, taint your thinking, and sap energy that could go into making future poker and life decisions. It’s fine to send $100 to charity anyway, which has all kinds of positive and energizing results for both the charity and you.
Just leave the bad beat poker stories untold and unremembered.
Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.