Curiosity can kill the cat and the poker player

Oct 6, 2015 3:00 AM

“A person…who is too curious in observing the labor of bees, will often be stung for his curiosity.” – Alexander Pope (English poet; 1688-1744)

According to an old proverb, “a cat has nine lives” – lucky him. But, then too, recall that “curiosity killed the cat.”

Well, we poker players only have one life to enjoy (at least until we join the big poker game in the heavens). Let’s make the most of it. But, at the poker table, curiosity – just like the cat – can be our downfall too. Curiosity – inquisitiveness – can silently draw us into dangerous and costly situations.

As well-experienced poker players (lots of years spent at the poker tables), surely we are aware of the many mistakes and traps to avoid. Otherwise, we would be bound to lose all of our chips. We don’t want that to happen; so we take special care to avoid those costly mistakes and remain alert to the traps that an opponent may well set out for us.

Curiosity is another matter; inquisitiveness is a natural trait – for some more so than for others. However, in the final analysis, all of us (you and I, included) often find ourselves very curious about one thing or another. We hike into the wooded area to see what is beyond the side of the road; climb to the mountaintop to see what lies on the other side. Curiosity at work – sometimes subtle, but often quite powerful.

As children, we were naturally curious about almost everything you can imagine. “Daddy, why does it get so dark at night?” “Why do we celebrate this holiday?” While our natural curiosity may have annoyed our parents and teachers, it is also an essential part of human development. If we want to grow intellectually, morally, socially, and spiritually, we need to ask questions and seek answers. Intellectual curiosity is essential.

At the poker table, being curious, you might decide to call a big bet on the river only because you want to see what your opponent is betting with; or how the next card on the board will affect your hand. It has little to do with the likelihood of making your hand and winning the pot.

Curiosity is much different than going on tilt where the player loses control over his emotions and actions. That can happen after suffering a bad beat while holding an almost unbeatable hand – up until the river. While on tilt, he is likely to play irrationally, making poor decisions or perhaps without considering the consequences of his actions.

He might give his opponents some obvious tells. Such a player is said to be “steaming” or has become “unglued.” (Note: I always recommend taking a break from the table when you suspect you may be going on tilt.)

Curiosity is much different – but it can have the same bad end-result: Cost lots of chips, unnecessarily. The overly curious player is fully aware of what he is doing. He is quite certain it will undoubtedly cost him some chips; but, “hey, I can afford it,” he thinks to himself. A player likely is more prone to act based on curiosity just after he has won a few big pots and is well ahead. He knows exactly what he is doing and figures he can well afford the luxury of being curious – even if it costs him a stack of chips – or more.

It is more akin to chasing. Like the chaser, the curious player overlooks the fact he has very few outs to catch a decent hand that might win that pot – quite unlikely. He forgets or pays no attention to the reality that he is a huge longshot. He doesn’t bother to estimate his card odds and compare it with the pot odds. Why bother! Curiosity has taken over.

How many stacks of chips can you afford to “give away” just because you were curious?

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