Shirley Rosario
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Friends at the Table

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by Shirley Rosario

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Poker FriendsThere were many great pieces advice my friend Steve Badger gave me when I first started playing poker. One of the best pieces of advice, although very difficult to follow at times, is there is no such thing as a "friend" at the poker table. Steve continued to explain that there are many ways that friends at the poker table can cost money. You can lose value on your hands if you do not bet them properly. You might also play a hand incorrectly if you listen to your "friend" while in a hand with him.

He told me that anytime a player does not bet his/her hand for value against a friend, he/she loses money. You might not win a couple bets. You might even lose the whole pot because you are giving your opponent free chances to outdraw you. Either way, it will cost you. He asked: "If you were playing pool with your friend and it was your turn to sink the 8 ball, would you try your best to get the ball in the pocket even if your friend had six balls left? Or would you try and miss and let your friend catch up a little?" Of course, my response was, "I would sink the 8 ball." Competition is about winning, poker is no different. He said that if I ever happened to play in a poker tournament and he was on my table, he better not see me play my hand incorrectly because of the "friend" thing. He did not want to hear about me doing it with any other player either.

There will also be times that a "friend" will bluff you out of a hand because of something they say or do. He told me to not base my decisions on what a person will likely do or not do because they are a friend of mine. I learned this lesson the hard way approximately three years after I was told this.

In a small Omaha Hi Low tournament I was heads up with a player who was a "friend". On the flop, my opponent bet and I called with a low draw and AK for high. The turn paired the board and both of us checked. The river brought three of a kind. I checked and my "friend" bet into me. He said I shouldn't call him because he had me beat. I thought about it for awhile. Normally, I would call in this situation because I really thought my AK was good for high, but I didn't in this case. I was short stacked and I thought there was no way my "friend" would tell me that he had the best hand unless he really did. If he hadn't said anything, I would have called, but he told me he had the best hand so I folded. He showed a busted straight draw and low cards. My AK would have won the hand and I would have won a nice size pot. Instead, I was left short stacked and was eliminated from the tournament a short while later.

To this day, I am bothered by this hand. He deliberately manipulated the situation and our friendship and that is a hard lesson learned. Whenever I see this player, I tell him I am going to take every chip he has. So, he not only got the best of me on the first tournament I played with him, he continues to get the best of me. I know in my head that it would be better if I would just let it go and move on. I just want to be sure that the lesson is permanently instilled upon my brain. And to think, I could have avoided all of this by just listening to Steve's advice.

There are always lessons to be learned in the game of poker. And there are times we have to learn the lessons the hard way. Some of us are lucky enough to have true friends away from the table that can teach us. If you are learning from the latter, remember that you can only listen when you are NOT at the poker table.