Monday, September 27, 2010

Stop! Thief! Who, Me?

It's not what it looks likeHad a good weekend, a lot of it occupied with reporting on PokerStars’ WCOOP and following the World Series of Poker Europe coverage over on PokerNews. Both of those series are coming close to concluding, with the last two events of WCOOP ending today, and the WSOPE Main Event finishing up tomorrow.

Didn’t spend the entire weekend in front of the computer. I did get out and exercise some. Am back to running again, usually just 2-3 miles at a time. I also had one other item on my “to do list” for the weekend -- grocery shopping. So that got me out of the house, too.

I went to get groceries on Sunday afternoon, having finally given up on my miserable Carolina Panthers, who couldn’t even compete with the also pretty darned miserable Bengals yesterday. Ended up being a lengthy, cart-filling trip, as we were in need of just about everything. So I’d been there probably close to an hour when a humorous incident arose.

By then I had made it through all but a couple of aisles, and found myself there in the frozen foods section trying to decide what prepared lunches might serve Vera Valmore well during the coming week. A number of tables in the center of the aisle plus a couple of other shoppers made it a little difficult to negotiate the space, so I’d stepped away from cart for a moment to gather a couple of items. When I got back, I noticed a large, elderly woman with a cart blocking the end of the aisle, so I whipped it around and went back out in the other direction.

A couple of minutes later I was standing in front of the eggs, and had just grabbed a carton to place in my cart when I noticed a carton already sitting there atop the rest of the items. “Hello?” came a woman’s voice, and I looked up to see the lady from before heading in my direction, walking behind a full cart.

I instantly realized what had happened. We’d swapped carts, and in fact both of us had added a couple of items before noticing. We shared a laugh while sorting things out, and soon all was well again.

Something vaguely uncanny about that sort of mix-up. I’m sure you’ve been there, say, when you head back out into a poorly-lit parking lot and try your key in a vehicle with a similar shape and/or color to yours and realize it isn’t your car. You suddenly become aware of yourself in a different way, imagining how you might look to others.

“It’s not what it looks like!” you might think to yourself. “I’m not really a thief!”

No one is looking (hopefully). But you instinctively try with your body language to communicate the idea that it was an honest mistake. You’re a trustworthy person, not at all the sort who deliberately tries to take what doesn’t belong to you.

Since most of my waking hours have been taken up with poker lately, I couldn’t help but think how this sort of consciousness of how others perceive you comes and goes at the poker table. At least for me, anyway. The best players are always attuned to such, though I imagine for most of us (like me) thoughts about how others see our actions are only intermittent, coming and going in relation to the plays we’re making.

Sometimes this happens to me when I’ve made a bluff -- often on the river -- and I instantly realize only after placing the bet how unlikely it is that my “story” of the hand is going to be believed.

Usually the formula creating that situation begins with some preflop aggression from me, followed by some bit of faltering between preflop and the river -- say, a check on the turn that betrays the weakness of my hand. Then comes the river, and a circumstance in which the only way I can possibly win the pot is to bet my opponent off the hand.

Then I choose what feels like the wrong amount. Or perhaps I time my bet in such a way that makes it seem more obvious I don’t have the goods. In any event, it is usually only after I’ve made the bet that I’m saying to myself some variation of “ooh... bad,” and think there’s little chance that my desire not to be considered a “thief” is going to be believed.

It’s that “hand in the cookie jar” moment -- like looking down and realizing you’re standing behind someone else’s cart.

“It’s not what it looks like!” you think. But there you are.

We’ll see how many bluffs get picked off at today’s WSOPE Main Event, where they are playing down to the final table. I believe there will be some delayed coverage online both today and tomorrow -- check out the ESPN poker page for information on that.

Will also be following that WCOOP Main Event closely, too, as I’ll be live blogging the sucker with F-Train. Check in over at the PokerStars blog for that, if yr curious.

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