Integrity in poker

Life in the Streets

By Vincent Olmos

Greetings, true poker degens! As you may have noticed, I like to relate poker to life as often as possible, and this issue is no different. I would like the reader to consider how beneficial it is having integrity in a game with “no morals.”

I consider myself the “Ned Flanders” of poker. I go to church, can be annoying friendly, and appear unassuming. I enjoy greeting new players, telling bad jokes, and being congenial. If talking is not welcome, I have zero problem zipping my yap. This is a basic tenet of my personality that tends to help a lot with my chosen field.

In addition, I will help the game proceed with ease in any way I can. If a player is flashing his hole cards I will notify him. If the game is running slow and I need to call out “Hollywood” for his needless tanking in a limit game, I am on it. (Least favorite fun tank fact: In a three-way hand Player A is all-in, Player B tanks for three minutes then folds. Player C then takes an additional three minutes to fold. What was he doing while Player B was tanking? Thinking about what color shirt to wear tomorrow?)

Nitpicking is a no-no, but some habitual problems call for it.

When people decide to tell me a bad beat story, I will listen to it. I may not hear 100% of it, but a man can only do so much. If people ask for feedback on how they are playing, I will be happy to tell them (away from the table).

At least once a week I am asked, “Hey, can I borrow …,” which always gets the same, consistent answer. “I don’t lend money, sorry.” As a cardroom employee and the opposite of a nincompoop, this is the only response I can give.

I’ve recently taken on an unofficial host position at my home cardroom. As a prop, I’ve acquired contact information from our no-limit players. Whenever the stars align, and players’ schedules sync just right, we can start an extra no-limit game or two a week. I believe that without having integrity this could never happen. People look toward someone they trust and expect candor about the likelihood of a game starting. They also expect that the game will start punctually with all the proper promotions in place. Thankfully, my home casino (Parkwest Lodi) delivers in both aspects.

After playing in the Northern California area for the past 10 years, most players have come to expect this sort of behavior of me. I am happy to share a smile and nod with many players when entering cardrooms. My hope is to be someone you’d be happy to share a table with; however, when the cards are in the air and the chips are flying, that can be a different story.

If you know me, I’ve three-bet you. If you’ve three-bet me, I’ve four-bet you. When it comes to poker being played, it’s war. The rules of engagement are in play. We’ve bought in and are competing for dominance. Ned Flanders gives no quarter, and I expect you to play the same against me. I know from first-hand experience that players LOVE to try to felt me.

Unfortunately, it’s hard for some to distinguish how someone can be amiable yet so ruthless. Therein lies the heart of the game. Anyone can sit down and play and anyone can win! It is referred to as a “gentleman’s game.” Giving one’s most sincere effort to bankrupt other players is the upright approach; it is the soul of the competition. To play your best is playing with integrity.

At the outset, poker appears to be a roguish game played by people with little or no scruples. There are players like this who exist. They rely on things like shooting angles and are not good for the game. Ironically, they end up killing their own action by breaking games.

In actuality, poker is a competition held together by players’ integrity to the game and each other. Our own coherence to the heart of the game is what makes it so great.