Monday, April 20, 2009

What About Poker Card Flashers? What Should You REALLY Do When You Sight One?

Professionals from Doyle Brunson to Annie Duke have said that poker is a "game of decision-making under conditions of uncertainty." But what happens when those conditions of uncertainty are eliminated - when the opponent to your immediate left or right unknowingly, carelessly and stupidly flashes you the two cards in his or her hand? It's a dicey situation, for sure. On one hand, these "card flashers" give you useful data, information you can use to either pounce on the pot or fold and run for the hills. On the other hand, this inside information changes the complexity of the game, creating an unfair edge which some might say is cheating.

Do you keep quiet? Do you speak up? In the interest of experimentation, upon encountering a card flasher during a recent no-limit session at a North Bay cardroom, I tried it both ways.

One poker player said, "The first time, I kept my lips sealed, calling the $5 pre-flop wager with my suited K-9 after seeing my opponent's Q-5 off-suit. The flop came A-Q-9, all different suits, and when the table checked around to him, he bet a measly $15. I raised to $60, representing an ace, even though I had nothing but bottom pair and knew he had me beat. Predictably, the flasher mucked his hand, and I won the pot. The next time, after he folded an unsuited 8-4, I folded a J-10 and someone else won the hand, I tried a different strategy: I spoke up.

"Hey man, can I offer you some constructive criticism?" I asked flatly, not really waiting for a response. "You might want to be more careful with your hole cards, because I saw them pretty clearly on that last hand."

The flasher was stunned. "Seriously?" he asked, more rhetorically than anything else. When it was clear I wasn't going to provide any additional information, he leaned back in his chair and reluctantly added, "Thanks."

Around the table, reactions to this exchange varied. Across from us, in Seat 9, a player nodded at me in approval, as if to say, "Classy move." Down the table, in Seat 2, a different player shook his head in disgust, admonishing me for publicizing information that some of our opponents may have tried using to their advantage.

The dealer, who spotted me catching that glimpse of the guy's cards in the first place, just looked confused. That's when it hit me: Maybe confronting card flashers is the wrong way to play. Sure, moralists might say I was "doing the right thing" by giving this dude the heads-up, but when have people really worried about morals in poker? Furthermore, one could argue that by drawing attention to my unfair advantage, I was telling my opponents something about myself: that I lack the killer instinct necessary to win big pots.

The lesson? At the poker table, silence reigns supreme. If you're uncomfortable with a card flasher's proclivities to tip his hand, don't look; if you're comfortable with the extra information, use it wisely and keep your mouth shut.

Do I, renowned poker and casino cheat Richard Marcus, agree with this?

You bet your ass!!!