How to make poker less fun - tapping the tank

Barry Carter reworks and old piece of poker advice to make poker more enjoyable for casual players (and also more profitable for serious players).

fish and sharks playing poker
We know there are fish and sharks, but we should all be striving for more fun

There is an old maxim in poker of “don’t tap the tank” which has always meant do not make a bad player aware they made a mistake. This has always been a somewhat cynical expression, one which I often used myself when I was a serious player, to not lecture a player who sucked out on you as to how they misplayed their hand, because in the long term it will only help them get better and thus, reduce your own winnings. The ‘tank’ part being in reference to a fish tank.

In recent times I have taken issue with this expression, and any instance where we seemingly berate recreational players, especially calling them fish. However, in the interests of making the game more enjoyable for casual players, and more profitable for professional players, I think the expression can be co-opted a little.

Most recreational players are very much aware that serious grinders exist and know more about poker than they do. They know the grinders plan on winning money from the casual players. Poker becomes less fun, however, when they cynically reveal the lengths to which they are trying to do this.

Game select....quietly

Kevin Hart Dan Bilzerian
Fun players get invited to the best games

When I sit down to play poker, I expect to be outclassed, and I know the better players will probably be looking at my stack and licking their lips. What I don’t want to see is them draw attention to how much effort they may have gone to to make this happen.

So seeing the same player turn up at every single table a recreational player opens is a good example, it draws attention to table selection techniques, even worse when software is used to do it (thankfully a lot of this has been eliminated by changes to poker room lobbies). Sitting out as soon as the bad player busts their stack is another example, often seen at the high stakes, or leaving the table the second they bust the player (known as ratholing). This sends out the message that there was no game being played, it was all business.

Serious players take part in a meta game to make more money in which they create as big a skill edge as possible, which we refer to as ‘game selection’. I think it’s the most important skill for any professional to master, many a talented player have come unstuck by ignoring it. However, a less spoken aspect of this meta game is the importance of being welcomed into the profitable games in the first place, and that means creating a fun environment. Few people would call Jean-Robert Bellande the best player in the world but he always finds himself in the best games, perhaps because he knows this. 

Remind yourself, and others, it is a game

John Hesp playing poker
We all need reminding that poker is supposed to be fun

I was just as guilty as anyone back in the day of bringing up a losing player’s SharkScope stats in the chatbox. It might have made me feel better in the moment, but all it actually did was serve to alienate the other player by exposing to them that there was a world inhabited by serious players that they were not part of.

Recreational players are not stupid, they know you are there to make money, but they want to believe the fun, social game they are participating in is reciprocated by the others at the table. Drawing attention to the lengths you are prepared to game select against them sends out a message that you view them as just another number on a scoreboard and you would rather be anywhere else as soon as they run out of money.

Work hard on game selection, it is the most important skill, just put a bit of effort into acknowledging that it is still a game to those who treat it as such.

Do you think casual players could be put off when they learn about things like software and game selection? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (1)

  • IvicaIliev77


    How about an article targeting poker rooms and how much they are benefiting with rake back decrease and not doing enough marketing to attract new players on their sites? :)