Five People to Leave at Home on Poker Night
Mr. Know-it-All: You know the one. The explainer. The know-it-all. The rationalizer. The lecturer. Does he think he’s won, but people think otherwise? He’ll explain why he’s right. Twice. And wave a highlighted rulebook around. Does somebody break an obscure rule that everyone else is willing to let slide? Woe be to you, rule-breaker. You’re about to get a lecture. Don’t get us wrong—it’s great having somebody who doesn’t give you a blank stare when it comes to the rules. But when somebody starts critiquing your shuffle and throws a fit when you accidentally deal to the right. . . Yeah, leave this guy at home.
Signs: Nervous leg bouncing, frustrated sighs when rules are bent for newbies. Inability to believe that other people don’t know the most marginal rules.
What to do when one shows up: Smile and nod. Just smile and nod, man.
The Tall-Tale Fisherman: You know the guy—the one full of stories he can’t actually justify. He once caught a fish this big. He once got two royal flushes in the same night in a high-stakes poker game. He’ll say, “I once won against a guy who played against a guy in the World Series of Poker.” You ask, “Oh? What year?” He says, “I dunno, he was a big deal. Came in, like, fourth, or something. A few years ago.” Mmm-hmm. Sure, big guy.
Signs: The wildest stories, man! That no one can actually confirm! Also avoiding eye contact. Inability to recall the specifics of his big win—or too many specifics.
What to do when one shows up: Life’s too short to put up with other people’s BS. If you think he’s bluffing, call the guy on it. What’ve you got to lose? You’ve got poker to play!
Mr. Existential: So-called because you and your friends constantly find yourselves asking, “Why the [bleeeep] is he here?” This is the guy who looks like he always wants to be somewhere else. If weary sighs, watch checking, and zoning out weren’t enough, he may even take out his phone whenever it’s someone else’s turn. He’s playing some sort of racing game, or maybe another card game. Maybe he’s texting his other buddies. Maybe he borrows your phone when his runs out of battery life. Jerk.
Signs: Leaning back, his face lit with the softly glowing screen of a smartphone. Sounds of pew pew! and tweeeeeeSMASH coming from the tiny speakers. Silence. Watch-checking. Watching the TV with the game on in the background.
What to do when one shows up: Have everyone put their phones in a pile on a nearby tabletop at the start of the night. The first one to touch his or her phone has to bring beer next time. Then ask what game he wants to play. Ask him to teach the group a new game. Doesn’t know one? Point him to the How to Play App and tell him to come back next week with a new set of rules memorized.
The Hammerhead: This card shark can be an evolution of a Mr. Know-It-All, and may be better known as a bad winner. Let’s be clear—there’s a difference between an enthused winner (someone making a surprise comeback who then races around the table shouting “Woooo!”; somebody so surprised that they can’t help a gleeful yelp) and a Hammerhead. Hammerheads take their victory seriously. Too seriously. Would be to anyone who hasn’t won. You’re gonna feel terrible.
Signs: Infuriating smugness. Quoting from movies about playing cards. Eye-rolling from everybody else.
What to do when one shows up: Easy—don’t let him or her win. Stack the deck. Hire Sal Piacente to deal the cards. “Accidentally” flip the table at the last possible moment. Card tables! So rickety, right?
The Total Newb: This is the person who has no idea what’s going on. Not that he doesn’t get the rules the first time—but he continues to not get the rules. The most complicated game in his repertoire is Go Fish. The endearing charm of a student willing to learn the craft of poker is quickly replaced with everyone in the group wondering exactly how thick this guy’s skull is, and who let him in.
Signs: “Er, what?” “Wait, I thought you said I needed all the same color.” “Wait, I thought you said I needed six cards in my hand.” “Wait, you mean I should have bet when I had three kings in my hand?” “Uno!”
What to do when one shows up: If you know you’ve got one of these friends coming to poker night, do the wise thing: offer to teach him or her before the main group shows up, without the pressure of everyone eager to get started right away. Or give in and play one round of Go Fish, because why not?