Last time, in Part I, I told you a little bit about Slow-Playin’ Seto. Slow-Playin’ Seto played in the first house game I ever played in. Wait, he didn’t exactly “play.” He sat there most of the night waiting for the nuts! Yet, night after night, Seto chalked up winning sessions. I learned how important discipline and patience are by watching Seto rake in the bucks, and I knew I had to do the same thing. Although it wasn’t easy at first, I was finally able to deal with the boredom of folding. It was from watching Seto that I actually became a winning player in the game. And just when I’d figured out everything there was to know about poker, in walked Bettin’ Benny … oh, boy.
Benny was very loud and intimidating. He was an Italian with lots of hair and a big voice. He also had a goatee, which made him look even more intimidating. His hands and neck were covered in lavish watches, rings, and necklaces. He’d played poker before for higher stakes than we were playing, for sure. We played with a $1 ante, $1-$5 anytime with anything up, and $10 on the end. It was a game in which nobody could get hurt too badly; losing $200 was a pretty bad night. That was soon to change.
Benny jumped right in and started betting and raising, appearing to throw caution to the wind. None of us had ever seen anything like it before. We were used to a game with a more normal pace. All of a sudden, the pots were twice the size as normal, and Benny appeared to be invincible. He didn’t often start with much of a hand, but by the end of the hand, he’d hit some miracle card and taken down another monster Sbobet pot. He had all of us shaking our heads. Not only that, he convinced us all to make it $20 on the end – and $20 was a big bet to us, but not to Benny. Benny knew that, and he started betting the maximum all the time. After all, it was tough for any of us to call $20 on the river, as that was a buy-in! So, Benny exploited that, stealing pot after pot. Sometimes he’d get lucky and have the best hand, but other times he’d just bluff and steal the pot. I was dumbfounded. He won more money that night than anyone had ever won before in our house game – almost $700. Seto could never do that!
So, what really happened here? Was this guy that much better than we were? No, of course not. He forced us to play his game, and we fell right into his trap. He’d caught a couple of cards here and there and that sort of gave him a powerful aura. I never learned anything like it by watching Seto.
So, anyway, Benny too became a regular in our house game. Benny was the guy creating all the action, while Seto sat back and set traps for Benny to fall into. It was an interesting chess match to watch. Eventually, Seto got the best of those confrontations. I mean, Seto always had a hand, and Benny was always dancing around in the pot with nothing!
Benny also caused confusion. He made the game chaotic for everyone else, but apparently everything still made sense to him. What a powerful tool, I thought. If I just keep betting and raising all the time, no one will be able to figure me out – another poker epiphany.
However, Benny’s strategy wasn’t without holes. He was simply fighting an uphill battle by spotting Seto two wild cards every hand. The math would eventually come into play. Also, Benny’s act soon began to wear thin, and he was no longer feared by the others. It didn’t take long before Benny became a live one in the game – regularly dumping $200 to $300 a session.
So, was it all a mirage or did Benny have some poker talent? Talent he had, but unfortunately for him, he had no discipline. So, what could I learn from Benny’s talents? A lot. In the beginning, Benny’s table image was fierce; he was in complete control of the game. I wanted that. But Benny was a losing player. I couldn’t possibly learn anything from a losing poker player, could I? Oh, yes, I learned a lot.
So, here I was playing with Bettin’ Benny and Slow-Playin’ Seto. By now, I no longer gave Seto any action, while I’d call Benny with as little as a pair. I was no longer intimidated by either Seto or Benny. I realized that even though Seto won more money than Benny, he wasn’t much of a threat to me. He’d simply be a plugger, avoiding marginal situations and playing only with much the best of it. In a game full of tough players, he’d be easily read as a rock and get no action. Fortunately, the house game was good enough for him to show a profit. And what about Benny? Well, he was doomed. All the talent in the world wasn’t going to help him when steam was coming out of his ears.
When Benny was winning and on a rush, he really played well, making moves, and showing some discipline as well as creativity. When he started from behind, though, he was a lost cause. His face would turn beet red as he smoked his cigarettes frantically. It’s a shame, but loss of control is a common fault of many poker players. Seto wasn’t like that. He had control regardless of the cards he was dealt. I wanted that, too.
Seto’s strengths were Benny’s weaknesses, and vice versa. The two of them could have learned a great deal from each other. Seto could have learned not to miss so many bets and to mix up his play, while Benny could have learned to avoid some real trouble hands and turn things down just a notch or two.
I was open to learning, and my mind was always at work. Seto became complacent; he was happy enough just beating up on the blinds. He didn’t have aspirations of being a poker superstar or anything like that. Benny didn’t want to control his temper or read a book that could assist him in restricting his starting requirements. So, they were at a stalemate. Their ignorance didn’t allow them to learn anything new. Consequently, their games never improved.
These two players were instrumental in helping me form my poker philosophy. By combining their strengths and incorporating them into my game, it made me stronger. Later in my career, I learned to be open-minded when encountering new playing styles. Heck, if I learned something from Bettin’ Benny, I could learn something from anybody! Understand this: You will never master the game unless you realize that it can never be truly mastered. There will always be a new challenge to face; the learning never stops. That’s the beauty of it. So, open your mind, and the next time you play with an unconventional player, ask yourself this: What can I learn from this experience? Just be careful what you learn.