The banter at the online tables has been extra venomous these days. I'm assuming that the increased level of agitation has everything to do with the recession and our state of economic turmoil. My online opponents are in a bad head space. These are tough times we are living in, with rising gas and food prices. All those bad beats add up. Aces cracked? That's a tank of gas. Sucked out on the river? That's a week of groceries. The barrage of bad beats are draining people's mess-around money or making a dent into the bankrolls of those playing poker for a living. Tempers at the virtual tables had been flaring because fuses are super short these days.
One guy really let me have it. I put a beat on the malcontent when my K-Q beat his A-9 during one sit-and-go on PokerStars. Typical story. Four players were left and the action was folded to me. I raised from the button. The big blind shoved. It was only a little more for me to call, so I did. I won the pot when a Queen fell. My opponent was eliminated and flipped out.
Usually, I don't say anything. I ignore the chat. That's my general policy, especially when I'm multi-tabling because chatter is just a waste of time and energy. Depending on the situation during a cash game, I might egg-on my opponent because witty repartee can sometimes push them over the tilt cliff and they start spewing chips. And as Sun Tzu said, "If your opponent is angry... irritate them."
There's a part of me that loves to needle players that are already tilting. My goal is to keep them on tilt which means they're playing less than optimal. I never initiate the confrontations. I let them lash out first. And as soon as they do, I let them have it.
Here's something that has been driving the donkeyfish crazy. After I put a bad beat on them, or suckout or get lucky, or (and this scenario is the most likely) they misplay their hand and project the blame onto me instead of taking responsibility for their own actions, the feeble-minded ones take a cheap shot and call me something bad such as a donk, idiot, or moron. I'm sure some of you have been called worse.
Most of them write "your an idiot" or "your a f***** donkey" and that's when I quickly shoot back, "It's 'you are' or 'you're' and not your." That minor grammar lesson seems to tilt them even more.
You also have to be careful in what you say in the chat box. I have known friends who have gotten their chat privileges banned for offensive and crude language. The goal is to agitate your opponents but do so in a manner well within the rules.
At the same time, your opponents might be trying to tilt you in the chat. They'll goad you into an argument and keep you distracted by arguing futile points. The might even use every curse word on the planet and make "yo momma" jokes. Some of them will taunt you about your choice in avatars. The best way to combat that type of warfare is to simply turn off the chat function. Every poker site has one of those functions ... so use it. Best way to get back at someone? Ignore them.
Turning off the table chat is also an effective tool when there is too much banter going on between players or between railbirds and players. My rule of thumb is this ... if I find the chat distracting, I'll turn it off. And make sure you tell your friends that your chat is off, otherwise they might stop by to say hello and think that you are being rude for not answering them.
Paul "Dr. Pauly" McGuire is a writer, poker player, and avid traveler from New York City. He's the author of the Tao of Poker blog which can be found at taopoker.blogspot.com.