Barry Carter: A Sense of Entitlement

Are poker players becoming more egotistical? Barry Carter asks, are we all more similar to Phil Hellmuth than we might care to admit?

A couple of videos are doing the rounds on the poker forums of Tony Hachem, brother of main event champion Joe, conducting himself in a less than humble manner.

In these videos (below) you see him acting pretty arrogantly in the WSOP main event. This has led everyone to ask the same question, who does he think he is?

The quick answer to that one is - Joe Hachem.

Tony is getting a lot of criticism on the forums for his delusions of grandeur. He is acting like he is a world champion himself (a not very gracious world champion), when really, what has he done to justify the behaviour?

In fairness, he has got a pretty decent looking record, lots of cashes, lots of finals, a couple of wins, and one six figure score. His total live tournament earnings are well over $500,000, which I thought was impressive.

Until I discovered, at the time of writing, that 1,666 other players have over $500,000 in tournament winnings, according to the Hendon Mob database.

It's still impressive of course, it's more than you are ever likely to see on my own record, but when 1,666 other players can boast the same, does that justify the behaviour?

The reality is nobody should be sounding off like Hachem is here, but they look all the more ridiculous when they don't have much evidence to back it up.

It used to be that the only noticeable ego in poker was that of Phil Hellmuth. He built his reputation, his brand, and became a one man industry with his trademark displays of arrogance.

It used to be just Phil that would get labeled egotistical, but I think most of us are closer to the Poker Brat than we might care to admit.

Whether its poker, or anything else for that matter, people these days seem to feel a sense of entitlement towards just about everything. Everybody believes they deserve success and happiness more than their peers.

Phil HellmuthConstant media exposure of successful people makes every dream seem achievable and easy, reality TV turns nobodies into stars overnight, and advertising makes us believe we must have more and more expensive luxuries.

We are led to feel we deserve all the trappings of success, but rarely are we reminded of the hard work that is required to get there.

Premature Exposure To Success

Poker is no different in this regard, in fact if anything the sense of entitlement is accelerated. Variance means that we can all experience what it is like to be an elite player momentarily, without having to do the work required to get there.

If you want to be a Doctor, you have to spend most of your twenties in higher education and working every hour of the day, if you want to be a champion poker player you can literally do it overnight if the cards fell your way.

Such an early exposure to success is probably why we all stuck with the game,  we most likely all ran like god in our first few months to have kept up the enthusiasm to learn the fundamentals.

But too much early success can be very damaging if you do not recognise the role variance played. It creates very high expectations, which lead to frustration, stops you working on your game, and even puts you in games you can't beat.

I have seen multiple figures quoted between one third, to three quarters, but whatever the number, a high percentage of lottery winners end up broke. This is because they find themselves with all the results of success, without the successful mindset needed to get them there, and maintain the lifestyle. This is a great metaphor for poker, which highlights what early success can do to a player.

In the case of someone like Tony, that early exposure to success might not have even been from his own actions at the tables. Being the brother of a highly successful world champion must surely have rubbed off on him and had some influence on future his behaviour at the felt.

I can completely sympathise with that too, it cannot be easy being in the shadow of a world champion. Jealously can play a massive part in your demeanour as a player, I know that first hand.

I have lots of friends who are highly successful players, and I regularly interview the best in the world. Because at times they can make it look easy at final tables, it used to create an incredible sense that I should be able to do what they did too and need to catch up.

It felt unfair, and I felt I deserved it too because I would see them winning a tournament by playing ace-king the same way I would, or even worse by sucking out on someone. What I failed to notice, and what most of us never see, is all the hard work they would put in away from the tables to put themselves in these positions.

Because we only see the results and a small sample of hands, and never see the work that led up to that point, our perception of what we and other people 'deserve' is greatly skewed.

We Are All Poker Brats

And before you discount yourself from thinking too highly of yourself, ask yourself this question, how often do you use the word fish? Most of us are guilty of labelling the competition as fish, referring to fish as being victims of our superior skill, and generally berating players who get lucky against us like they do not deserve to win.

It may be much more subtle in its manifestation, but this sense of entitlement over perceived lesser players is no different to Hellmuth saying he deserves to win every tournament.

I'm not saying an ego is a bad thing either, assessing your edge against the competition is the fundamental skill in game selection, which is of course one of the fundamental skills in poker.

But most of us greatly overestimate our edge, we all claim to be in the 5% of players that see a profit, and we all claim to be unluckier than most. Tony Hachem is embarrassing himself in these videos, but we are probably all guilty of acting the same way on a smaller scale at times in our poker careers.

Of course if we really do deserve to win more than others, I am sure the big man upstairs will help us out.....

follow @Barry_Carter on Twitter.

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Comments (11)

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  • jbpatzer


    'we most likely all ran like god in our first few months to have kept up the enthusiasm to learn the fundamentals'

    I wish!
  • badbeatuk


    last vid is well creepy :/
  • bondovac


    Last video is pure gold :D
  • Paakjis


    :D That last video made me listen to rock you like hurricane on repeat.
  • kbwinsagain


    Great article, as always. I wouldn't be surprised if Joe had a word in his bro's ear, as later footage showed him with a lot more jovial and gracious demeanor.

    As for the final vid, refer #3 - a real shot in the arm for atheism!
  • VorpalF2F


    I'm really wondering why they thought Chris Ferguson had any influence here.
  • kbwinsagain


    That's what his lawyers will be arguing!
  • datsmahname


    "we most likely all ran like god in our first few months to have kept up the enthusiasm to learn the fundamentals."

    I sort of feel like this assumption is over stated and unsubstantial... but if its true, I could live with that.
  • datsmahname


    OMG Nicolas cage = Jesus???
  • Titicamara


  • imoldovann


    Barry, I couldn't have said it better myself.
    i think that people that feel they understand what you are saying are already one level above the brat level :)