Compassion at the Poker Table
I recently won a large pot on a $1/$2 no limit Texas Hold 'Em game at Party Poker. I played the hand for maximum profit and raked in over $250, but when I finally chatted with my opponent, I felt like crying.
Poker is generally about competition. While we may enjoy socializing with the other players, we are always in competition. It is a game that generally favors aggressive players, provided they are skilled and exercise good judgement. I do care about other people but there isn't usually much room for compassion in poker competition. I normally do a good job of differentiating my good natured day-to-day disposition and my hard nosed poker disposition.
This particular hand was obviously a little different from most. In early position, I held K K in the pocket and made it $10 to go. Three other players remained and the flop brought K 6 6 giving me the nut full house. I slow played and the hand was checked around to the button. The player on the button (who had just joined the game) bet out $25. I smooth called as did one other player. The other player folded. Similar action occurred on the turn, building a nice sized pot. We lost one more player during this round of play, leaving just me and the player on the button. I was having trouble containing my excitement when the river came. The only hand that could beat me was if my opponent was holding 6 6 in the pocket. Based on the betting patterns of the player on the button, I did not believe he had two 6's. I felt it was more likely that he had a 6 for trips or possibly a lower full house. The player on the button bet out $50. I instinctively pushed all in. The player on the button briefly went into the think tank and then called my all in. He showed K 6 for the lower full house just as I had suspected.
Throughout this hand I was simply playing to extract the maximum profit. I wasn't chatting with the other players. If I had, I might have been tempted to play this hand a little differently. The joy I experienced when the dealer started shoving the pot in my direction quickly changed when I looked over at my opponent. He looked dejected - he pushed away from the table, apparently broke. It was only now that I really paid attention to the fact he was very elderly, with oxygen being pumped through tubes into his nose. I suddenly felt a sick, empty feeling in my stomach as if I had done something terribly wrong. I seriously felt like crying but I maintained as I watched the elderly man walk away from the table.
Intellectually I know I did nothing wrong. Everyone who sits down at the poker table assumes some risk. It goes with the territory. Still, I can't help but feel a little sad about this game. I haven't seen the elderly gentleman again. I hope he's ok. We may compete fiercely at the table, but we're still a poker family.