Please: Spare me the small talk

July 19, 2009

On a recent trip to the Texas Hold ‘Em poker tables at a Seminole casino, something dawned on me. Not only do I hate people in general, but I especially hate interacting with them at and around the tables. The answer is simple, their unbearable small talk. It’s unnecessary, it’s annoying and it stems from transparent, depressing insecurity and the need to fill dead air with something other than the soft volume of a TV playing women’s golf (that’s another complaint, but we’ll stay on track for this week.)

I’ll start off with an example. Last week, I believe, I wrote about winning a hand on the river, making three of a kind. It was a nice hand, I was lucky but proud of my play at the same time. I didn’t get bullied early and played smart risk/return for the low limit game I was at. All right, enough tooting my own horn. Here’s the aftermath I didn’t get to last time. As soon as it was common knowledge that I had won the hand, somebody else at the table (not the dealer and not the gentleman I’d beaten after he went all-in) started singing some weird tune that had the words “the River” in it. This went on for a good 10 seconds, and eventually the dealer joined in, so it couldn’t have been that obscure. The guy was probably 60 or older, which apparently gives him full authority to call me “young man,” even though I’m over 30 now. Whatever, that’s no big deal. But the fact that he feels he has to talk to me between shuffles is what gets my going.

“So, young man, you got the lucky river card. You ever heard that song, The River?”

“No, but I’ve heard the song, “The River Runs Red with Your Annoying Blood.”

Yeah, yeah, but I should’ve said that. Would’ve taught him to small talk me.

So that’s just one example. But the nasty habit of blabbering to your tablemates simply because they’re the ones sitting next to you is an archaic need for some type of feedback. And let’s be straight about something, I have a fairly decent judge of people and have at least the basic skills of reading somebody, within or outside of the poker setting, and these people have no ulterior motive. They aren’t trying to learn something about you or your emotions. They’re not trying to get you snap or reveal something about your character. Not at a $2-$4 low-limit table. Sorry, it ain’t happening. It’s hard enough to even see these people’s faces through the dense fog of smoke. If the background on my cards weren’t white I have to squint to make out what the hell they were in the first place.

I also can’t stand the story guys in the middle of a hand. In the middle of the damn hand they’ll see a combination of cards or someone makes a call that “reminds them of a time.” Like they’re a retired player with a purple heart telling me war stories of the summer of 1947 when he almost hit that Royal Flush but didn’t want to…blah, blah, blah. Please just stop. It’s bad enough I have to hear this story when I’m trying to concentrate on my hand, the community cards and the other player’s bets, but usually this joker will inevitably hold up the game in the process.

I’m sure I sound bitter here, but it’s one of my worst pet peeves. Worse than the women who thinks she can use her feminist charm to dupe players into believing she’s a helpless newbie, worse than the table bully who keeps betting himself into the red even when it stops working after the first three hands, worse than the guy who thinks he can shuffle cards himself and then ends up bending half the deck on his bridge attempt. You ever get a call from somebody who you just couldn’t get off the phone? They keep talking and talking, and you’re just waiting for that half-a-second where you can slide in with “Well, let me let you go here…”

Well, that’s what small talk is like to me. Except I can’t hang up.