Poker night at the synagogue: A study in unmenschlike activity

I played in a charity poker event last week, believe it or not, at the same temple where I had my Bar mitzvah so many years ago. Nothing like pocket tens and torahs to brighten up an evening. Before I took my seat, I wondered how the big man upstairs felt about a bunch of old Jewish dudes gambling in his sacred place of worship. Maybe he was just upset he didn’t get dealt in.

The tournament organizer was an older gentlemen, doing his best to consolidate tables, distribute chips, etc. I don’t want to say the tourney was poorly run but it wasn’t exactly a night out at the Hard Rock.

wsop-poker-tournamentI knew I was in for a frustrating night when he announced that, in order to avoid confusion, he didn’t want anyone dealing to burn cards. My old poker regulars would have stormed out in protest at the unheard of change in protocol but I went with the flow since my stepdad graciously funded my buy-in.

Since my bankroll has been a touch light lately, I haven’t played much hold ‘em, so my chops were a bit rusty. By evening’s end, I fared well, finishing in the top 10 out of about 70 players, but still unfortunately out of the money. Only the top three paid.

An interesting thing happened, however, as I was knocked out of the tournament. With my chip stack dwindling, I was running out of options. Facing reasonable pot odds with two bets, and both small and big blinds in front of me, I was dealt a somewhat playable hand: Queen-Nine of spades. I put one of the bettors on an A-x and the other on a pair. Had I waited two more hands, I would have been blinded out anyway, so I decided to take my chances to quadruple up. I went all-in.

When no face cards and two spades fell on the flop, I felt good about my hand, knowing a flush would probably win me the pot. Since I was all-in and could bet no more, and the two blinds had folded pre-flop, the two remaining players checked down their hands to try to eliminate me from the tournament. A fifth spade failed to fall but I did hit a nine on the river, meaning I likely had any A-x beat. I was toast, however, to any higher pair.

I flipped over my cards, assuming my pocket nines would not hold up depending on the other guy’s hand. When I flashed my nine, the player seated directly across from me waved his hands as if too shoo me off and said “Just go away!”

Now I had just sat down with this guy. I had built up a friendly rapport with most of the other players at the table but this guy had only played three hands with us, having just been reseated. He finally turned over his pocket jacks and rudely repeated “Just go away!”

Now I’m a peaceful, loving, non-confrontational guy but when this guy said that a second time, it was all I could do to not leap across the table and smack the knit yarmulke right off his smug head. After all, this was a small-time charity event, wasn’t it? Was there a need for such attitude?

Poker by nature is a cutthroat game, the idea to rid your opponents of their money by any means necessary, but as in any competitive event, there’s still etiquette.

mike-matusowMike Matusow is professional poker’s most well-known trash-talker. His shtick is to belittle his opponents any chance he gets, telling them how lousy they are in an attempt to take them out of their game. A millionaire several times over, his approach has obviously worked well for him. But I had not sat with this guy all night and at that point, there was no need to take me out of my game. My chips were already in the middle of the table. I don’t regret making the call with the suited Q-9. In two more hands, I would have been blinded out anyway, a more playable hand likely not coming my way.

As I stood up, my opponent stuck out his hand as if to shake mine and say good game. I looked at him in amazement, at first not shaking his hand, then deciding to bite my tongue, rise above and accept. Let’s just say the handshake occurred with Belichick-like swiftness.

In the past, I’ve preached the importance of good sportsmanship. Psyching your opponent out is a crucial part to many sports, but being gracious and being a champion are not mutually exclusive. At that point in the game, my opponent’s banter was pretty much pointless, not to mention this was a charity event held in a temple.

So I walked away, out of the money, irked but still somewhat satisfied with my play for the evening. There will be other tourneys.

Let this be a lesson to the sore winners out there. Winning with pocket Jacks when an opponent is already all-in doesn’t require skill. Being gracious in victory does.

33 thoughts on “Poker night at the synagogue: A study in unmenschlike activity

  1. Chris

    I’m getting my guidance from Rabbi Schmolly as he was MJ’s spiritual guide. I differ from on the amounts of copious sex I ought to have during the month , however.

    What’s this about Brett offering Tiger advice on being humble ? Who’d have thought it ?

    Alan Parkins

    Alan Parkins

  2. My compliments on not stooping to that schmuck’s level.
    For what it’s worth, I’ve written and posted an apology for my ignorant comment on your Tiger post.
    I hope that there is no hard feelings.

    Shalom

  3. Chris

    A wet dream for the paeans at ESPN is to have the likes of Mortensen, Schlereth , Hoge and Jaworski all in a tent going Brokeback.

    In Baseball ….If The Unthinkable Were To Happen ………..Which Franchise Could or Should Be Contracted ?

    Given the Rays’ situation and in all likelihood if they’re unable to contend this season. Where do you see Sternberg and the ‘team’ heading ?

    In the piece I’ve provided the link to. Enjoy the gallery pics’ on Serena Williams. I think they’re tastefully done !

    Alan Parkins

  4. Chris

    I’m sure the family has seen multitudes of violence or sex either in a news’ format or via drama on television to be overly worried by the innuendo.

    Is it me or has this article now shown what a complete moron Bud Selig is ? He has always maintained that there was never a proven testing protocol to detect HGH accurately ? Now here it is, as concrete evidence. What a blowhole he’s become !

    Courtesy of NY Daily News

    British professional rugby player Terry Newton tests positive for HGH as MLB on deck for testing

    By Michael O’Keeffee & Christian Red

    The argument by Major League Baseball that no reliable test for human growth hormone exists took a major hit Monday.

    Both the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency (UKAD) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) trumpeted the positive HGH test of British professional rugby player Terry Newton as “proof positive” that the drug can be detected in blood tests. Newton, who was tested in November, did not contest the result and yesterday was banned from the sport for two years by UKAD. Newton’s rugby club, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, also canceled his contract. Newton is believed to be the first case of a professional athlete testing positive for HGH using a blood sample.

    Baseball has banned growth hormone since 2005, but there is still no HGH testing. Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, Monday blasted baseball’s argument that an effective HGH test is unavailable.

    =====================
    Click link to read article
    in its entirety
    =====================

    The protocols were always there, it’s just that he and the union chose to ignore that very fact.

    The last paragraph of the piece should be enough of an indication to show you how out of touch baseball and Selig has been with the scientific advances that’ve been made within the game over the last decade alone.

    Alan Parkins

  5. Wow…very well written…you made me want to read the whole thing to see how the story ended…even though I was in attendance! 🙂

  6. Definitely unmenschlike behavior from that Hellmuthian clown. Hopefully karma bit him in the ass and he was felted soon afterwards.

  7. Al… I’ve always felt baseball as an institution was responsible for the steroid scandal. From top to bottom.

    Commissioner, owners, players, coaches, managers, clubhouse staff.

    You can’t tell me that nobody knew what was going on.

    As Don Henley sang, it was the end of the innocence.

  8. PJD… I tried to tone down the anger a touch.

    By the way, you played very well. Let me know about the next tourney.

    I plan on exacting some revenge. I’ll bring my best yarmulke.

  9. Great story, Rev!

    Congrats on being the bigger man. It doesn’t always feel like victory, but it is.

  10. Chris

    The perception within baseball was that it was the ‘blind leading the blind’. From ‘the owners’ through the to MLB hierachy on down to the players and their union (MLBPA) .

    I see that ESPN’s Tony ‘Cornhole’ Kornheister has been suspended by the station for his inappropriate remarks about Hannah Storm ? When will these guys there learn ?

    There ought to be a new mantra inside ESPN for the males employees there. ‘If you can’t keep your flies closed then keep your damn mouth shut’ !

    Alan Parkins

  11. Chris

    Hasn’t Matusow himself been exposed</em? ? I mean his command of the English language ranks up there alongside Paris Hilton’s.

    Or is that giving Paris too much credit and not enough to Mike ?

    Alan Parkins

  12. It is about time that you recognized that you are in the category of OLD FOLKS. After 45, denial drops out of your vocab.

  13. Wow, Al. I hadn’t heard that about Kornheiser. I’ll look into it. What’d he say? Goodness, ESPN does NOT play around when it comes to that.

    And don’t kid yourself, nobody in baseball’s steroid conspiracy was blind. They all knew exactly what was going on.

  14. Al… the Mouth Matusow has been through a lot over the years, including recovering from drug addiction.

    What we’re seeing now is the kinder, gentler Mouth… if there’s such a thing.

  15. Chris

    I was fully aware of Matusow’s drug problems as it fully explains his curse behavior at the tables. As for Kornheiser, after the mess the Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds got themselves into. You’d have thought he would be wary of such a situation ? Mind you I’ve never been overly impressed with his thought process on a number of sport’s topics. Wilbon I could listen to all the time as he’s very succinct and insightful !

    Dropped this piece as of today.

    Not Quite The Silly Season In Sports But It’s Still Early Days As Of Yet ……………..

    Alan Parkins

  16. Chris


    Call me naive but how comes it took the NCAA less than 6 months to conduct their investigation into the Noles’ cheating scandal ? But yet for the USC Trojans they’re dragging their feet like a pregnant elephant about to go into labor.

    Never mind the fact the Wolverines’ Rich Rodriguez is now in the NCAA’s scoped sights.

    Alan Parkins

  17. Pingback: The Wife Hates Sports: Hump Day Links (Vol. 2) | The Wife Hates Sports

  18. I can’t explain anything the NCAA does, Al, but they definitely have it in for RichRod.

    I’m thinking they should be given six months to open and close any investigations and if they can’t find anything at that point, then leave it alone.

    Who holds the friggin’ NCAA accountable?

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