If you have played in live poker rooms much at all, you have undoubtedly played against opponents that had too much to drink and opponents who were rude and/or obnoxious. The majority of opponents who appear to be drunk are highly profitable to play against, and if you can emotionally handle the rude players, most of them tend to be poor players as well.
However, it is very important to realize that every poker player that appears to be drunk may not actually be, and that some of the best poker players in the world tend to be obnoxious at times. Two that come to mind are Mike The Mouth Matusow and Phil Hellmuth. Some players use these appearances to gain an advantage over their opponents.
It is easy to let ourselves play differently against an opponent who we don’t like or against one who appears to be drunk, but to do so makes us do things that aren’t best for our poker game. So how do we deal with obnoxious players? You can either not play in the same game with them, or you can learn to deal with them.
I don’t let them bother me anymore, but when I was younger they did sometimes. This has just come with age and experience, but now I will at times use their obnoxiousness against them, especially when they lose a big hand or get sucked out on. A simple well-timed Nice hand in my most sarcastic voice can work wonders for their attitude. They usually start berating me endlessly.
This is made even better if I am the one who beats them in a hand. I have seen players get so worked up at insulting me that they start making terrible decisions, all from two little words. It is a very satisfying experience to turn the person who is trying to put everyone else on tilt, on tilt himself. You must be prepared to create a life-long fan if you do this, but I still feel it is worth it at times.
What about the apparent drunk player? The only thing you can do is concentrate on playing your best game, but there are a few clues you can look for when a player may just be acting. Players who act drunk to get action tend to play a large percentage of hands, often betting and raising before the flop, but tend to play exceptionally good strategy after the flop. If you see a player like this that is raking in a large number of pots, start watching their post flop play. You may very well be surprised at how good they really are.
Until next week, watch out for the troublemakers above, and good luck at the tables!