Poker Strategy

The Real Nit Is You

The Real Nit Is You

Play poker for long enough (and often for not very long) and you’re bound to have a classic poker insult thrown your way:

  • You Nit.
  • You Maniac.
  • You Calling Station.

No matter what play you make, no matter what hand you have, there’s always a poker stereotype perfectly suited for the occasion.

That’s because these terms are much more than insults, they are poker archetypes that live deep within every single one of us; as the Swiss poet Hermann Hesse wrote:

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.

And so our goal should not be to judge or label, but to seek the part of ourselves that is being reflected back to us and find the lessons hidden within it.

The Nit

It’s true, it can be frustrating to play against the nit – especially in ante-less cash games where they can afford to wait for premium hands much longer than in a tournament or any game with an ante. Their ultra-conservative, low variance approach is not one that builds excitement in the game. But here’s the thing, generally speaking, we all have aspects of the nit inside us. Whether it’s when we’re approaching the bubble of a big tournament, competing against players we are intimidated by, or trying to squeak into a satellite win – there are plenty of moments when we need to tap into our Inner Nit for the sake of strategy or survival. Our Inner Nit guards our bankroll, protects us from punting off our stack, and acts as the final voice of reason when our emotionally-charged Inner Maniac (see below) threatens to take over. So rather than judging the nit across the table, use them as a reminder that although there are times to step on the gas, there are also times to slow down, breathe, and play fundamentally sound poker.


The Maniac

Constantly pushing the action, creating chaos at the table, and generally keeping everyone on their toes, the Maniac likes to play a lot of pots and is much more likely to barrel three streets than to check it down. Although unleashing your Inner Maniac regularly is likely to lead to disaster sooner rather than later, never tapping into your Inner Maniac can be similarly destructive to your bottom line, albeit on a much slower timeline, by making you predictable and easy to read.

Thus, what the Maniac across the table ought to teach us is to have courage, to seize the initiative, to take a stand and show our opponents that they should be expecting a battle any time they come for our chips. As the Maniac credo goes – if you come at the king, you better not miss.


The Calling Station

Often referred to as a Donkey (or “Donk”), the Calling Station is the black hole where all bluffs go to die. If nothing else, this player is optimistic, always convinced they have a shot at winning the pot, no matter the mountain of evidence to the contrary. But no matter how much they frustrate us at the table, it is likely that we can each vividly recall multiple moments of playing the role ourselves. How many times have we called a big river shove, certain that we were beat on the prayer that both our analysis and intuition were wrong? How many times have we stuck around in a pot, chasing that gutshot just so we can stick it to that Maniac across the felt?

When we frame it this way, it is easy to see what the Calling Station is reflecting to us – the need for strengthening our resolve in moments when we’ve previously failed to restrain either our frustration or our deluded optimism.

So while it’s easy to point fingers and sling poker insults at our opponents, it is infinitely more productive for us to recognize these archetypes in ourselves and perhaps even embody gratitude for the reminder of what we still have to work on. After all, the real goal in life should not be just to become a better poker player, but to find ways to overcome our weaknesses and become a more self-aware human both on and off the felt, no matter how many donks we face.

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