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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Casino talent online

Stanley’s class at the table was not enough to fend off Ungar’s matchless poker talent, but he set an early standard for the kind of conduct that is increasingly required by the broadening television and Internet exposure given to tournament poker players.

Throughout this year’s World Series a new tournament rule was strictly enforced against players who deployed the “f-bomb” during the course of play. It made no difference whether the offending expletive was directed at another player, a dealer, the player himself, or the poker gods.

Any use of the “f-word” in any form led to an immediate 10-minute penalty, during which the player’s chips would be out of action except for paying the blinds and antes. No warnings. No exceptions.

The zero tolerance policy was strictly enforced by the dealers (apologetically at times), as they had been warned that they could be sanctioned for failing to do so.

On Internet poker sites as well, there are rules prohibiting abusive and inappropriate language in the “chat” box at the bottom of the screen where players can write messages back and forth to one another during the course of a tournament.

Recently I was playing a tournament late at night on PokerStars, the leading tournament Web site. When we got down to five players I was the chip leader. The player in third chip position made a standard raise before the flop. I was in the big blind with a suited nine-seven. I called the raise, figuring that if I caught a lucky flop I had a chance to bust him.

That is exactly what happened. The flop came ace-nine-seven, giving him top pair with his ace-king and giving me two pair. I bet about half the pot, and he raised all in. I called. He failed to improve, and was eliminated, two spots out of the money.

In the chat box, a sarcastic message appeared from the eliminated player, telling me what an idiot I had been for calling his pre-flop raise with such a weak hand. I pointed out that when the big money went in (after the flop), I had the best hand. He responded with a curt "f*** you."