HDouble at the movies: The Poker Wisdom of Rushmore

“The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotation.”
–Benjamin Disraeli
I’ve finally recovered from the WSOP after a week of relaxation and some serious rehydration. Since many of my faithful readers have told me my best work was my attempt (parts one and two) to extract the poker wisdom from The Big Lebowski, I’m back with more poker wisdom from another of my favorite movies. If you haven’t seen Rushmore, crawl out of your pop-culture hole and go rent it. And while you’re at it, rent the other Wes Anderson films, he’s the best director that my generation’s got. On to the quotes…
The Poker Wisdom of Rushmore
Blume: You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up.
Blume’s chapel speech to open the film is not only one of the best scenes in the movie, but it also has a lot of application to poker. The opening quote goes out to all of us poker players in the Golden Age of poker. Before the poker boom, game selection was all-important, and although I wasn’t around back then, I understand that finding a good game would take up to an hour. Thanks to the explosion of poker, it’s difficult not to find a soft game. For people like me who have jobs, the hour spent looking for a good game would cut my poker time in half. And still you have people complaining about “cashout curses” and rigged sites. We’ve got it easy, so don’t take it for granted.
Mr. Blume: What’s the secret, Max?
Max Fischer: The secret?
Mr. Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don’t know… I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore.
Max’s secret is to let your happiness guide your actions. In poker, we’re talking about the grind. Recently, I’ve been dabbling in the $15-30 games on Party, drooling at the amount of money people are throwing away. These games are easily beatable, but of course come with a heavy dose of variance. Right now I just don’t want to put 300 BB’s on the line, and the emotional strain of losing $3K in a week would probably not be good for my game. But I comforted myself by checking my “true hourly win rate” in Pokertracker for the $3-6 games, which turned out to be $28 dollars. So for minimal risk, I can play comfortably, and pretend I’m winning 1 BB/hr at $15-30. Back to Max’s quote– the point is, I’m comfortable and not quite bored (yet) by beating the hell out of these games, so I’m going to stick with the low limits. But hopefully not for the rest of my life.
Max Fischer: Maybe I’m spending too much of my time starting up clubs and putting on plays.
Bert: That’s possible.
Max: I should probably be trying harder to score chicks. That’s the only thing anybody really cares about.
This quote goes out to all the poker widows out there. Thanks for putting up with us…
Bert Fischer: You’re like one of those clipper ship captains. You’re married to the sea.
Max Fischer: Yes, that’s true.
Max Fischer: But I’ve been out to sea for a long time.
To all you online poker players– get to the casino every once in a while to remind yourself what “real” poker is. It’s easy to think of everything in pixels when the only place you play is in front of a monitor. Live play reminds us how complex the game of poker is– a bad beat may visibly anger one player, but have no effect on another, which should affect your decision to raise or fold when the player comes out firing the next hand. It’s too easy to forget that poker is a game of people when you only play online.
Herman Blume: She’s sweet, but she’s fucked-up.
Blume is describing Miss Cross, but he might as well be talking about the Party no limit games. It’s pretty easy to double up if you sit and wait for the nuts, but to me, that’s not poker. If you have plenty of patience and don’t want to make tough decisions, then make like a rock and build your bankroll in these low buy-in NL games.
Student: Did you hear they’re teaching japanese next year?
Max: That’s the rumor.
Student: And they’re canceling latin.
Max: What? I tried to get latin canceled for five years. “It’s a dead language,” I’d always say.
Student: Well, I guess they finally heard you.
Max’s feelings about Latin are much like my feelings about the other forms of poker. Unless you’re playing high-stakes poker or are planning a poker trip to Europe, Hold ‘Em is the game with the highest EV. There are plenty of bad players in the Stud and Omaha world, but with the recent WPT and WSOP TV coverage, hold em is the game of choice for the next couple years. I could play Omaha Hi-Lo all day, but I’d rather play with Moneymaker wannabes at a Hold ‘Em table until they all go bust.
Max: Adios, muchacho. Hey, are you okay?
Blume: Mmm, I’m a little bit lonely these days.
One of my favorite quotes in the movie is Blume’s understated quote to Max in the elevator as he finishes a whiskey and diet coke, hiding the can under the hospital towels. From the little time I’ve spent in the B&M with pros, it’s clear that playing poker for a living is one of the loneliest professions you could choose. Your “friends” at the table are looking to take your money, and half the people are losing, and aren’t the nicest folks to be around. Lost a $300 pot on the river when somebody catches their two outer? Don’t worry, it’s only the rent money. You’re your own boss, and you don’t answer to anybody. But with that comes a feeling of disconnectedness, since you have absolutely no responsibilities. A great situation for sure, but you’d better be ready for some loneliness.
Blume: But here’s my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can’t buy backbone. Don’t let them forget it.
My favorite quote of the move comes from Blume’s chapel speech to the Rushmore student body. I’d take Blume’s words over most of Sklansky’s weak tight advice any day. We make money from the mistakes of other players, and we make the most money off the mistakes of rich folks wanting to throw away their money. Just about any NL game you find in the B&M will be a battle between solid players and a couple rich guys who want to throw their money around and look tough. Play smart, keep your eyes on the rich guys, and don’t be afraid to put all your chips when they try to bully you out of a pot.

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