Too good at poker

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Lie To Me is of course absurd (think House except with Tim Roth instead of Hugh Laurie and him being an expert in deception instead of a doctor, but otherwise pretty much the same). Anyway, in one episode we learn that Tim Roth has beeen banned from Vegas because he's too good at poker.

So, first it's important to realize that unlike basically every other casino game, with poker the house has no interest in whether you win or lose. Typically they take a fixed rake on every pot though sometimes it's a percentage of the pot up to a small cap. In either case, the casino doesn't care much whether you win or lose. To the extent to which they care at all about how the game proceeds (and poker isn't that big a money maker) it's mostly about play velocity.

Now, Lie To Me does get this sort of right: according to Mrs. G. the objection was that Roth was pissing off the casino's best customers by winning too much. This sounds plausible but it doesn't really make sense either. First, the house primarily cares about having poker players be happy to the extent to which they don't leave the casino. If they just stop playing poker and play some other game, that's actually gravy. Second, for many poker players—especially many of the big money players that are most profitable—it's actually desirable to play against the best players, even if you're likely to lose (think Andy Beal). It doesn't speak to me, but apparently there's excitement in playing against the best. And of course there's nothing stopping any player from just changing tables.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Terence Spies for his help with this post.

1 Comments

I agree that Lie to Me is absurd. I like watching it for the same reason I like watching House. The star is a good actor. But you really have to suspend disbelief with Lie to Me. I wonder how the average person's views on the ability to detect deception have been (falsely) affected by the show.

Between Lie to Me and CSI, one wonders why any criminal ever gets away :-)

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