Thieves, Varlets and Scoundrels

W.C. Fields, the bulbous-nosed comic actor who hated children and loved gin, was one of the most quotable characters of his generation. He often played a conman and once was quoted as stating that 'All poker tables are made up of thieves, varlets, scoundrels and an occasional gentleman.'

DifferentTypesofPokerPlayersWin

Having been an occupant of poker tables for more than 30 years, I can attest that Fields was right. I have sat at those tables and observed thieves in operation. They steal money with a smile and would check-raise their own grandmother out of her last dollar.

You will also find a rate gentleman playing against you. When I lived in the Caribbean on the island of St. Maarten, I played regularly at the Atlantis Casino on the Dutch side of the island. We had a wealthy developer of timeshares who occasionally played poker. I still remember the night he showed up and gave each of us players a black $100 chip just to start the action. He had enjoyed a good day selling timeshares and wanted to share a small portion of his wealth.

While it is irking to play against thieves, varlets and scoundrels, it can become rewardging when you beat them at their own game. They are usually fast players, double or triple-raising a pot in order to intimidate the other players. If you follow the 'Poker for blood' philosophy, you can take your nut hand and let the thief lose his chips.. I do it often and have profited from my strategy as a counter-thief.

W.C. Fields was an imbiber of alcoholic beverages as well as a womanizer off-stage as well as on the silver screen. He ended up an alcoholic and died badly. But he did a lot of living during his years and occasionally played the role of gentleman in his dealings with others.

I sometimes find myself wondering at a poker table just who are the thieves, the varlets, the scoundrels and the gentleman. Naturally I hope I am the gentleman, but I occasionally get off-tilt and fall into the other categories as I am sure all good poker players do.

While poker is a social game, it can also deteriorate into a game of survival. That is when Fields' remark kicks into gear and makes sense. Then it's every player for himself.

Sometimes when I sit down at a poker table, I tell the other players, 'This is the table my mother warned me about, but I'm here anyway. Let the game begin.' W.C. Field would have been proud.

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