By: Kent Anderson


I’m reading a book entitled BRUTAL at the moment. It’s a tell all of sorts about the inner workings of the South Boston criminal underground that was ruthlessly presided over by James “Whitey” Bulger. His chief lieutenant, Kevin Weeks has spilled his guts and the book is rich with tails of murder, extortion and bone chilling accounts of sometimes deadly fisticuffs and beat downs. Weeks was a professional when it came to their business and I have been struck by his insights into his own behavior. Specifically, the similarities his successful, professional approach to his criminal enterprise has with a successful approach to things at the Poker table.


These guys were always a step or more ahead of their rivals and law enforcement. They were meticulous about every detail and prosecuted their brutal business with a detached professionalism that should be the envy of poker players the world over.


Weeks maintains that there are no winners in street and bar fights. Even the so-called winner is damaged physically and mentally. He juxtaposes that with professional sports like boxing. “The fighters aren’t mad at one another. It’s a professional fight. But in street fights, even when you win, a little bit of you is hurt. And chances are you’ve made an enemy as well.” He goes on to say that he was never mad or angry at guys he was pushing a button on, it was business and that was how they were able to maintain their composure and carry on through what is unimaginable to most of us.


I see and sometimes get mixed up in street fights at the Poker table. We’ve all been there; some guy plays like an idiot and injures you with unbelievable luck. You get mad and go after him. Or you keep a horrific suck out in your mind well after the hand has finished. Or any number of other situations where you get mad or angry and play poorly. The end result of these emotional roller coasters is usually negative.


If you watch the true professionals play Poker on television it is strictly business void of the emotional swings that put other players on tilt. They are deliberate, calculating and ruthless just like a professional gangster, but it is not personal. They are there to collect the chips of others not to inflate their ego with rhetoric and high-risk situations that can only be positively resolved with the intervention of luck.


So the bottom line is you don’t have to be a professional to play like one. And to become a professional gangster of the felt it takes a lot of composure, discipline and rational decision-making. It also doesn’t hurt to be ruthless as you amass your body count at the table, but remember, it’s not personal, it’s just business. Until next time…

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