The Power Struggle

Dealing with Bullies and Tyrants

Poker BulliesďThose who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation
are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.
They want rain without thunder and lightning.
They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.Ē
-- Fredrick Douglass

I do like my quotation thingees at the beginning of my columns. Usually I come up the quote first and then build the poker concept around it. Iím not going to say that all poker concepts offer us life lessons, or that all life lessons offer us poker concepts, but it really is often the case that something as trivial as poker mirrors some of the great and challenging struggles in our lives.

Terrorism is a challenge facing the entire world. I donít mean to trivialize that challenge by jumbling it up in a poker context, but what is true in life is usually also true in poker, as the Fredrick Douglass quotes here show. He was obviously also speaking of something much greater than poker, but I have always found his words to be directly applicable to how I approach poker as a game played in conflict with opponents. At the same time, I think his words go directly to the heart of what it takes to make the world a better place, what it takes to fight those who use terror to get their way, what it takes to curb boorish behavior in the poker world, and what it takes to be a winning poker player.

It takes some pretty strong words to do all that! Here is more:
"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.... Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others."

Poker is a struggle. In fact, poker begins as a struggle for the blinds/antes. While some of our opponents are weak cupcakes just waiting to be ravaged, many of our opponents are aggressive bullies. (I donít mean personally, although that might be true too. I mean strong, tenacious players.) These players simply will not leave our blinds alone... unless we resist and fight them. Tough players will not just ďconcedeĒ pots to us. They will bluff us. They will checkraise us. They will try and trick us, confuse us, intimidate us -- anything to take ďourĒ money.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to" and these players will steal every single pot right up to that limit. Poker players "may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get." Very seldom is anybody going to hand you a pot on a silver platter. Seldom will you get a no-brainer hand that gives you a pot as leisurely as a day at the beach. Sometimes winning is easy, but in the long run it is a difficult struggle where you are in conflict not primarily with the weaker, losing players, but the stronger, tougher ones. These folks are doing their darndest to not just take the money of the other folks who are going to lose it to somebody, but they want to take your money. The nerve of them! We must fight them. We must fight them on the beaches, and in the fields, and in the cities and in the air... and in the blinds, and on the turn, and when it comes a flush card on the river.

You canít expect to be a winning poker player and be a doormat too. You canít expect to be a winning poker player and not get involved in the thunder and lightning. Poker is conflict. Poker is a struggle. Donít let the tyrants take what is due you. Donít let tyrants push you around. Anywhere.

See also Manipulating Opponents, Poker Empathy and Beta Males and the Poker Plateau