Politics and Poker

Should politics be discussed at the poker table?
Really, no.
A thousand times, no.
This story took place on my second night in Vegas, last month.  I had just arrived at BSC and been sent to an open seat at a 1/2 game.  As I was settling in at one of the middle seats, I couldn’t help hearing the conversation over at the end of the table, seats 1, 2 and 3.  In particular, seat 2 was especially vocal.  The subject was politics, the current political situation in the country.  Seats 1 and 3 were participating, but the conversation was being completely dominated by seat 2.  He was basically pontificating on the current political scene, non-stop.
Now I’ll be honest.  His political views were diametrically opposed to my own.  Pretty much 180 degrees from me. But I’d like to think if everything he said was in 100% agreement with my own point of view, I wouldn’t think this was appropriate conversation for a poker table. 
What were his views?  I’m not going to say.  It’s not relevant to my story, And this is key—I am not about to reveal my own political views on this blog.  This is a blog about Vegas and poker (and hookers and bosoms), not politics.  Just as I do not believe that political discussion belongs at the poker table, I don’t believe it belongs on this particular blog.  As it happens I have very strong political views, and I very intently follow the current political scene.  But if I wanted to air my political views, I’d start a political blog and I’d do it under another name.  (Note, I link to many fine bloggers who do indeed discuss their personal lives a lot more than me, and aren’t at all hesitant to discuss their political viewpoints.  That’s fine, and I respect them for doing that, but that’s not what I want to do with my blog)
Why am I so adamant about not wanting to discuss politics on this blog, and about not revealing anything about my own political views?  Well, I have a specific reason, but I will save that explanation for the end of this post, since it is not the main point of the post.
Anyway, this guy was really loud and really overbearing, and the fact that I’ve rarely encountered anyone who was as in love with the sound of his own voice as this guy certainly didn’t help. But the thing is, one of the reasons I play poker is to escape the “real world.”  And you can’t get any more “real world” than politics, especially in an election year. 
As I’ve indicated in many of the posts on this blog, I certainly enjoy many of the conversations  that take place at the poker table; in fact to a large degree, this blog exists because of such conversations, as I’ve certainly enjoyed recounting some of the more outrageous such discussions.   But some subjects are best left to other venues than the poker room. 
So I enjoy hearing talk about Vegas, shows, hotels, restaurants, movies, sports, occupations (to the extent people can talk about their own without it becoming too “real world”) and even, yes, hookers.  But generally speaking, people have the good sense to leave much of the real world out of it when they are there to have a good time (or, for the grinders, there to make their living).  Sure there’s an occasional Letterman/Leno type joke about some political situation or figure, and that’s all fine.  But in the past, whenever I’ve heard anyone say anything too serious about politics, the other players had the good sense not to respond, or perhaps respond in a way to shut down the conversation.  This time, I couldn’t really tell whether the other two guys were encouraging him to go on or just couldn’t figure out a way to shut the guy up, or maybe shutting the guy up was just impossible. 
Then to make matters worse, a couple of the dealers who were at the table started joining in.  I wasn’t sure if they were really agreeing with him, or just adding their own two cents, because I was doing my damnest not to listen.  To no avail.  And truth be told, this guy talked so much, if you were only 150 degrees from him politically, he probably said something you would agree with, because he had so many, many things.  But I really didn’t appreciate that my dealer buddies were encouraging him to keep babbling.  Or maybe even agreed with his offensive (to me) views.  I was thinking to myself, “don’t bother pushing me a pot, I’m in no mood to tip you.”  Yeah I was that upset.  Fortunately for them, I didn’t win anything during this time.  And you will note I’m not even identifying these two dealer with fake names.  It still pisses me off a bit.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he moved on to religion!  Religion talk at the poker table.  Are you kidding me.  He even started joking about, saying, “Yeah I know you aren’t supposed to talk about religion or politics, but I can’t help it.”  Perhaps some duct tape over this guy’s mouth would help.
So I was quite unhappy.  I could not concentrate at the game at all, I was just sitting there getting more and more pissed off that I had to listen to this loudmouth.  As I said, the nonstop talk would have been annoying no matter what he was saying.  And if he had the same political viewpoint as me it would have somewhat less annoying I suppose, but it still would have been way, way, way excessive.  I don’t think I could have taken it even if he was on my side of the argument.
I really think poker is the place to get away from this, beyond a few minutes or a joke or two.  I recall one time at a 2/4 game a guy told us he was a marriage counselor.  The guy next to him was fascinated by this and started peppering him with all sorts of questions about his work and about relationships.  He wasn’t talking about himself, at least he didn’t say he was.  It was always “a friend”.  So maybe he was just trying to get free advice.  But then he started asking the marriage counselor about famous people and what they needed to do to turn their lives around!  The poor guy didn’t seem to mind answering the questions, so maybe he too was in love with the sound of his own voice.  But I found it really annoying to hear such serious talk at the poker table.  Fortunately, because the discussion was only annoying and not offensive to me, I was able to put it out of my mind for the most part.  But not this time.
Of course, after just a few minutes, when I realized that this guy was not going to shut up and there was no chance he’d get off the topic, I put in for a table change.  I was actually concerned the guy was so loud that unless I got into another game all the way on the other side of the room, I still be able to hear him ranting.  Finally, at long last, I was indeed called for a table change.  I got just far enough away to not hear the guy.  Then, irony of irony, about 10 minutes after I moved, I saw him pick up his chips and depart, never to return again, presumably crawling back under the rock he came from. Still, that 10 minutes I didn’t have to put up with this jerk may have added a year or two to my life.
So I’m interested in hearing what people think about this.  Do you think it’s appropriate to talk about politics and religion at the poker table?  Did I over react?
I know some of you might find it annoying that I won’t reveal the details of the politics, his views and mine.  Sorry about that.  Just assume that my views are 100% in agreement with yours.  But for those interested, here’s a story from my “real life” that will explain my position on this.
Well over 10 years ago I had a boss who, like the guy in this story, also had political views the complete opposite of mine. And he too liked to talk about politics.  But because we usually we had to talk about work, he didn’t get a chance to piss me off with his commentary all that often.  And when he did, I had long ago developed a skill for such situations.  Rather than debate him, I would either say nothing or just act like a pundit and say a bunch of non-committal things that, if you weren’t paying close attention, might lead him to believe that I was agreeing with what he just said.  I would do this whenever politics was brought up in the workplace because I never felt anything was to be gained by revealing my political leanings.  So I suspect that this boss really did think I was on his side of the political aisle even though that couldn’t be farther than the truth.  I should point out that I always found it particularly ill-advised to get into a political argument with your boss, why give him one more thing to be upset with you about?
This boss retired and I moved on to another position but we kept in contact.  We exchanged emails every so often and even spoke on the phone a few times.  Fortunately, politics were never brought up.  We got along great and you could say we were friends. Then one day he forwarded a fund raising email from a particular organization to everyone in his address book, myself included.  He added an introduction, asking all his friends, who of course he just assumed all thought the same way he did, to consider contributing to this fine organization in anticipation of the upcoming election.
If it the email had come from one of the major political parties, I probably would have just ignored it.  Surely my ex-boss didn’t expect everyone to contribute and of course he would never know if I had or not.  But this organization was, in my opinion, a particular extreme one that supported his side of the aisle.  I was frankly surprised that my ex-boss would be on the mailing list, let alone be a contributor to, such an extreme group.  I didn’t realize he was that far to the extreme of the political viewpoint I so oppose. So, thinking that inasmuch as we would never work together again, there would be no harm in leveling with him as to how my views differed so much from his.
I was polite in my response, but I wanted to make it clear that he was wasting his time sending me email like this.  So I said very politely that my own viewpoint was totally different from this organization and that I would be eagerly voting the other way in the coming election.  Then I said, “I'm not offended that you sent me this, but you might just want to not include me in this in the future, since I am not exactly the demographic you are looking for.”
I got back a four word email, “That explains a lot.”
And that was basically the last I heard from him.  He didn’t respond to any of at least a dozen emails (non-political of course) that I sent him, even one where I congratulated him on his new grandchild that I had heard about.  I called him a few times, if I left messages he never called back.  If I got through, he was always very terse and said he was busy and would call me back, and he never did.
So I lost a friend, not because of any heated political debate we had, but just because he couldn’t accept having a friend who didn’t agree with his political views. 
We live in very polarized times, I’m afraid, and although this is an anomaly and I do have friends whose politics I very much disagree with and we get along great, I see no point in giving anyone who may feel like my ex-boss a reason to stop reading this blog.  My ex-boss can’t be the only one who can’t handle dealing with something who doesn’t share their politics.  Me, I am just fine with Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Moderates, Declined to States, independents, Socialists, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, whateverer’s, reading my blog. If someone stops reading my blog because they are tired of hooker stories or my “obsession with bosoms” or they think my analysis of poker is too unsophisticated, that’s fine, that’s fair.  But if someone were to stop reading my blog because they didn’t like my politics, when I never discuss politics on the blog, that would be very upsetting to me.
So that’s why there’s no political discussion on this blog.     
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Politics and Poker
Politics and Poker
Reviewed by asiana
Published :
Rating : 4.5