A Reason for Every Reason

I’m one of those guys who people figure I’ve got a reason for everything. Like when I started chopping blinds after four years of not chopping. They’re right. I do.

Thing is, when players guess my reasons for doing odd things, and they do that a lot, they hardly ever get the reasons right because they assume that a pro’s top priority would be profit. Mine rarely is. For example, posting behind the button. At limit hold’em, I never do it. But the reasons have nothing to do with cost-per-hand or having live-money in late position or anything like that. Or when I buy in for two racks, not for intimidation, but simply because I like to buy in once and once only. Or when I’m on the list for $20-40 and I’ve got a choice between playing $6-12 or $9-18 in the meantime. I always take the $6-12, not because I think the game is softer, but because the $3 chips where I play are ugly.

Sometimes my reasons are complicated and philosophical, as in, goofy. That’s when I usually get cut off in mid blab by someone who politely suggests that I have way too much time on my hands. Which brings us back to this chopping thing. It’s understandable to wonder what’s up when a dedicated non-chopper all of a sudden starts chopping. So here’s my full scoop on chopping blinds — why I stopped, and why I started again.

When I moved to California, the first thing that made me consider becoming a non-chopper was the way the house took the collection. All the $20-40 games I played in charged $3 on the button. I figured that as long as we’re paying for each hand no matter what, then we might as well play them out. It seemed practical to use what I was buying. That got me thinking about some things I never liked about chopping in the first place, priorities just heavy enough to tip the scales in favor of not chopping.

Simple is good. Chopping blinds is not simple. Especially in these games, with high turnover and lots of seat changes, I was constantly asking, “Do you chop? Do you chop?” Further complexity resulted from the varying chopping criteria of each player. Some chopped with four or more players, some with five, some with six. Keeping track required energy and vigilance, two things I’d rather conserve for more important activities such as looking at people’s food to evaluate the daily specials.

So I stopped chopping. And as usual, people tried and failed to guess my reasons because they figured he’s a pro so it’s all about the bottom line. They assumed I didn’t chop because I thought I had some kind of advantage playing blind against blind. That has never been a factor. Or they figured it was because I didn’t want anyone shooting angles at me. I’m happy to say that it’s a rare day when someone pulls a move around here, especially when it comes to chopping blinds.

It was time-collection considerations that initially led me to stop chopping, and time-collection considerations also sparked the idea to go back to chopping. The mid-limit games I play in recently changed from collection-on-the-button to pay-by-the-half-hour. In keeping with “use what I buy,” it seems like a better value to use the purchased table time on hands more interesting than blind vs. blind.

What about wasting energy on remembering who chops with such-and-such numbers of players? No problem. I decided to not care, for two reasons. I’d rather trust people than get all contorted watching my back. And in the bigger picture, it’s just plain friendlier to chop and I like that.

How to select my threshold? Just as when not-chopping, it’s all or nothing. It does make sense to play instead of chop when a game is short-handed, but I can’t think of a reason to stop chopping at any particular number of players, say, six players as opposed to five, or five players as opposed to four. So I’ll chop anytime there are more than two. And because almost everyone else’s threshold is higher than that, my cut off point becomes irrelevant. Simple.

Poker decisions are like any others in that what feels to us like thoughtful, pondered reasoning is actually nothing more than an indication of our priorities. When we buy a car, bet a hand, choose a meal, or say, “let’s chop,” it’s as if our priorities are variously-sized rocks in a huge sifter; we shake them around constantly and act on the priorities that remain unsifted. Why did Joe buy the blue car instead of the red one? Because his blue rock was bigger. Why did Bob play poker until 4:00 a.m.? Because his gotta-get-even rock was bigger than his gotta-get-some-sleep rock.

Some might reason that my reasoning behind reasons is unreasonable. That’s okay. I don’t mind. They have their reasons.


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