Notes from the Cage


Erkel breaks the game. It’s a self-awareness thing. He’d already demonstrated this particular lack of when he was ever so slightly slow rolled by a happily recreational fish with twenty big blinds.

“You slow rolled me!” Erkel had protested, along with all that insincere laughter. Laughter like an alarm, laughter communicating anger through false pleasure. “Heh-heh-heh-heh, you slow rolled the nuts!”

The truth is, Erkel is too good of a player, too good of a man for this bullshit. He’s the rarity, a clear and certain winner, in life and at the table. I wish I played more like him, really: smoothly, optimistically. Low-risk, high reward stuff.

Minus the constant strat talk, of course. But this is bad, worse than tank-tapping. Erkel shouldn’t be berating fish. Not for a fifth of a buy-in.

“Hehheheheheh—” That’s Erkel, looking around. Laugh with me… please… damn it, laugh!

No, you nitwit. And now you’ve stepped away at the worst moment.

The guy with the bandage half attached to half his face – was he bitten? – stands up demonstrably, smashing his chips together in clacks and clicks. This is his fake laughter: Bandage is saying he is being forced to leave. As in, “what can you do, no one can play four handed.”


I turn to the punchy dude beside him. He’s quiet but consistently upright, challenging. Don’t ignore me. He looks at his cards and then offers to flip for stacks with me.


This game is over. Flipper shakes his head, tut-tutting me for not being action. Man, these people his eyebrows flash at Bandage, but Bandage only stares, brain in stasis. He’s slow, wide-eyed, a cud-chewer, an antelope who’s seen too many seasons. I don’t know what he’s hanging around for… permission to depart?

I push out a chip. Everyone looks at it before deciding that it is not there. Racks.

Fine, fine.

“Did I do that?” The studio audience applauds. Yes, it’s Erkel, hero and heel at once, and now he’s back from his ill-timed break, returning just as the players leave. All he had had to do was sit tight, maybe empathize for a down with the fear on the faces of the fish as the game grew shorter. Help them through it.

You sit, you play, you talk. Then another player comes, and then another. Now you take your walk. Now you visit the urinal. Now you call your bookie.

Instead, racks.

“Yes, you did.” I say it emphatically, but it’s not really the truth. It’s not Erkel’s fault. These other players could hang, too. I say it because Erkel needs to learn. Someone has to tell him, because no one ever tells him.

No one tells anyone the thing they really need to hear.

No, that’s wrong. We don’t listen, we don’t want to hear.

The dealer pushes my chip back to me. It seems personal. I should get mad.






More Vegas poker, now and in future, will be in the Notes from the Cage series:

Shaken – Out of Position (

About persuadeo

Chris Murray, poker player and low stakes coach. persuadeo@gmail... etc.

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