Sportsmanship in the game of poker

Trash talk is the standard in online poker. Every player other than you is a donk or a fish.

This attitude is reasonable from some perspectives — poker is a zero sum game, your winnings can only come from other players, so why humanize them? I argue that treating your fellow players as human beings worthy of empathy is good psychological play as well as straight up good strategy.

It is so easy to start off of a table by wishing your opponents good luck. I usually start with a very simple “gl all”. Often I’ll get positive responses back, or a response about how I am wished some good luck but not too much. Sometimes I transition into a conversation about how I don’t believe in luck, so that my well wishes are practically meaningless.

The goal is to take proactive steps to lower my own emotional heights. Hatred of other players is a strong emotion, and I play better when my emotions are as numb as possible. I also believe it helps me become a player that people are ok losing money to.

Note that this perspective isn’t obviously correct. I’ve heard persuasive arguments for why you should try to make your opponents as angry as possible, but this isn’t what works for me in managing my own emotions.

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