Sunday, 11 July 2010

Ending Badly

So the Raoul Moat story is over, but for a few investigatory ends which have to be tied up. Accusations are beginning to be made that police were the aggressors in the final stand-off, that not enough was done to negotiate with Moat, but the 49-page letter that he sent to police threatening to 'shoot them until he was dead' gave every observer a fairly clear indication of how the manhunt would end.

The news is rife at the moment with different psychologists, eyewitnesses and media outlets analysing the final stand-off and events in the days leading up to it, and as you'll know if you've read my last few posts, I have an interest in the psychology of killers, so I'm officially jumping on the bandwagon. However, I am going to use a different analogy to look at the psychology involved - that of a poker player.

Caught on CCTV with his new mohican hairstyle, trained physique and bright orange clothing, Raoul Moat clearly liked to stand out from the crowd. In that respect, he was no different from a million other wannabes, simply waiting for an opportunity to distinguish himself. However, a man with Moat's ego was never going to be able to cope with the daily frustrations of an ordinary life, and he clearly demonstrated this in his violent actions towards his family and those who he felt had crossed him.

I have no idea if he played poker, but if he did, Moat would have liked to boss the table. He was clearly a man who loved to feel in control of a situation, which will have been necessary to him to compensate for the lack of control he felt over his life. His angle would have been aggression, pure and simple, raises on top of re-raises, and speech play to intimidate his opponent.

As is often the way with wannabes, they get themselves into trouble by biting off more than they can chew. Moat liked to be thought of as a hard man with links to a shady criminal underworld, though that image will be challenged somewhat by eyewitness reports, who had heard him say to police negotiators at the end that he 'didn't have a dad' and that 'nobody cared about him'.

It is an important maxim at the poker table that all successful players are aggressive, and this is definitely true. However, aggression alone will only get you so far, and you must employ it selectively or more techincally-gifted players will play back at you and leave you (to use poker terminology) drawing dead.

Likewise, if the police seemed inactive in the days up to the final events in Rothbury, this was a calculated slow-play designed specifically to trap the unwary. Rumours flew that they had drafted in armoured cars from Northern Ireland, that half of the UK's armed response units were in the immediate area surrounding the town. The message was clear. We are not messing around. All the best poker players know when to fold.

If the shooting of his ex-girlfriend's new partner was a poorly-timed raise, there was still a chance for Moat. He could have handed himself in, served his time under the label of a crime of passion, and possibly begun to rebuild his life. However, shooting a policeman was his suicidal bluff-raise into a player holding unbeatable cards and from that point on, events started an inevitable slide downhill as his chips sailed into a pot he could never hope to win.

No comments:

Post a Comment