Let's get my updates out of the way first:
A few weeks ago, I finished second in a local Amateur Poker League tourney. I hadn't finished "in the points" (top 16) in quite a while, so it was nice to make the final table and finish as high as I did. As usual in these tournaments, I had to get lucky a few times to last as long as I did. They play like turbos, with blinds going up every 15 minutes and pretty much doubling every round, so it turns into a crap shoot fast. Still, I didn't make much in the way of mistakes. That might be a good way to describe the strategy for these things: make the best plays you can and wait for your opponents to screw up. Also, pray that the Card Fairy smiles on you now and then. Other than that one game, I haven't played a lot of poker since my last entry, and don't have anything of note to report.
I have been meaning to write about something that came to mind while I was reading this post from CK a few weeks ago. At the end of it, she describes how a player called the clock on her in a ring game, got fed up by this move, and left the game. When she told the clock-caller that she didn't need to put up with his shenanigans and was leaving, the player told her that that was what he was hoping would happen. As she put it, "That's when I knew that young guy's clock call was an angle-shoot to try to put me on tilt."
That got me to thinking. Let me say first that I play very little live poker, and most of my live play is the free bar league poker tourneys like I mentioned above. I have never seen anyone in those games deliberately try to put someone on tilt, although I'm sure it must happen from time to time. But if you play live poker for real money, I imagine that it must be something that you expect and maybe even prepare for. After all, we all want to be in control of our emotions when we play so we make the best possible decisions, right? I suppose that there are as many ways of dealing with tilt or potential tilt as there are poker players. Some probably put on their Vulcan tinfoil hats, suppressing all emotions and playing as mechanically as they can, shutting out all comments and distractions around them. Some may "use" the tilt as motivation to play better, trying to figure out what happened that got them upset or pushed them off their game. Some may just get up and walk away, as CK did in her example, to cool off and prevent the steaming from causing them to spew chips.
I am wondering if there are players, and I'm sure there must be, who take the opportunity in situations like CK's to try to "tilt the tilter." You would have to recognize that the other player is trying to get to you, of course, but once you pick up on what is going on, you would need to determine your anti-tilt strategy. Please understand that I am not criticizing CK's choice in that particular instance. I am only using it as an example of a circumstance where one might be able to deflect the other player's tactic back at them.
So, if a player calls the clock on me AND I suspect that the intent is to get under my skin, how should I react? What about something like this:
*I make sure that the clock-caller is serious about the request. Maybe he or she is just kidding around (not likely, but asking adds to the stalling time that I am creating).
*I ask the dealer or floor person how much time I get once the clock has been called, when the clock starts, and maybe even ask that the time remaining be announced when it gets to ten seconds or something.
*I would then take all of the time on the clock, whether I need it to make my decision or not. If my decision is to fold, I would do so before the clock ran out rather than let my hand be folded for me.
This may (or may not) upset the clock-caller to a certain degree. It might be even more likely to upset the other players at the table. One hopes that those other players recognize that it is the clock-caller's fault that the game was held up (assuming that you haven't taken a lot of time to act on previous hands or had the clock called on you before).
Later, if the clock-caller is still in the game with me, I might pointedly check my watch any time he or she is taking a while to make a decision about a hand. If I'm feeling really contrary, I might even call the clock myself, after a reasonable amount of time has passed. I would think it less effective if calling the clock myself came across as a tilting response instead of a simple "let's all play by the same rules" action.
I am not by nature a confrontational person. In most cases, I believe that promoting or building a conflict is counterproductive. However, there are times when one must stand one's ground and even give one's antagonists a taste of their own medicine. In poker, I think it is a good idea to show your opponents that you can't be thrown off your game too easily and, in fact, are able to push back when necessary. It may gain you some respect or, occasionally, throw them off their game and give you the advantage that they were after.