Poker is a game of incomplete information. How many times have we heard that? When playing online, one is robbed of even more chances to get a handle on an opponent.
Naturally, this idea reminds me of Celtic Frost.
When I was in high school, my friends and I fell under the spell of thrash metal after hearing Metallica’s debut album, “Kill ‘Em All.” Without the benefit of radio play or the internet, we searched record stores for similar releases. So how did we choose which bands to buy if we’d never even heard of them or a single note of their music?
The name was important, as were album and song titles. Venom’s “Welcome to Hell,” which featured “One Thousand Days in Sodom” and “In League With Satan,” was a winner. Raven’s “All for One,” not so much. Cover art was crucial, the darker the better, and what the musicians looked like played an important role. It was the last which cemented our purchase of Celtic Frost’s seminal “Morbid Tales.” While the titles were more than adequate, it was the frightening, snarling visage of Thomas Gabriel Warrior, lead singer, that cinched it.
Celtic Frost turned out to be one of the better bands around, for many years, so our decision–based on incomplete information–was a good one. There were plenty that were awful, however.
So we went with what we had, which is all you can do at the virtual poker tables, as well. What I’m thinking of has less to do with strategy, however, than it does the behavior of players. It’s been discussed plenty, how the anonymity of the internet allows people to act in ways they wouldn’t in public (that’s the theory; I see plenty of a-holes in public, too). And it’s not just poker tables. Anyone who’s spent any time on a message board knows it’s an almost endless spew of people attacking and/or one-upping each other. Heavy sarcasm, frequent name-calling.
A colleague is repeatedly skewered by a well-known snark site, often unfairly. It’s even worse than that. It’s mean-spirited and the comments are beyond anything you’d expect to encounter. And it makes me wonder, how can these people wield such poison keyboards? How can they make wholesale assumptions and judgements about another person who they do not know?
They’ve not made any attempt to do that, of course, merely convicted someone based on the view they’ve been given, the twisted prism offered with the sole goal of transparent superiority. It bothers me that people think such behavior reflects well on them, because it seems the opposite to me.
I’ve lost my cool at an online poker table. I’ve acted out of character and called someone out for shitty play. I’ve even leapt to the bait a few times. By making assumptions. Another blogger once described my online table image as “patient, nice and ruthless.” I’ve barely been the first of those in recent times.
I’ve taken a different approach, a defiant one, and it’s been to my detriment. Where I used to chat up the table (much like my “drunken idiot” live image), I now brood silently in my darkened apartment, scotch at the ready and pass judgement on the actions and comments of the others. People I don’t know. People to whom I haven’t paid enough attention to have any idea how they play, let alone whether I think they’re an asshole or not.
Staying civil can take you places and staying focused can extend the trip. I can’t always be right, but I can always use all the information to do the best I can. Look at Celtic Frost. So many great songs and it was the scariness of a menacing lead singer that made the decision.
Forget that when I finally saw them live, Tom G. Warrior was gnome-like in stature, about 5’4″ 120 lbs, and about as scary as a butterfly. I went with the information I had, which is better than going with none at all.