Sunday, May 15, 2005

If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

Friday evening I went out with some friends from frisbee for a drink and dinner. One of my friends works a bit doing web consulting but really makes his money playing online poker, and the other friend aspired to do the same. This was finally my chance to figure out why poker has this magical svengali like grip on 20-30 year old white males. Turns out I still don't quite get it, but I'm sadly starting to see. They explained to me how to go online and set up an account. Went home and did so, just for curiosity's sake. Went into a 7 card hold 'em room. (I should point out I'm playing in the free rooms, no real money for me). At this point it seems fair and right to point out that I don't really understand poker. I have a vague sense of how it works, and I have watched it a few times when other television options failed to entice. I know how it works in the same way I know how my car works. I know that if it's on fire that's bad, and if it were say a bentley that that might be nice. Short of that, I leave it to the professionals. For some reason though I decided that poker was more about luck than learning, and hell it's only electrons, it's not real money.

Now for those of you similarly poker challenged there are all kinds of hands that beat other hands. Sadly my notion of what *should* beat another hand does not conform with reality. For instance...I figure anytime you have a pair or three cards that should beat everything except four of those cards. This is not the case. What moron cares about have 5 hearts if they are the 3,5,6,8 and 10. That's just stupid. My 2 Aces should certainly kick your crappy hearts' asses. And yet no. In fact it's not even close. So while I know the rule, I think it's dumb, and therefore pretty much ignore it. Which I do to my great and consistent detriment.

Another thing...straights. I played yatzee...I know about straights, though sadly in poker there's no such thing as a small straight (would that there were for my pretend bank account). Also, and I was prety sure this was the case (though am very sure now) you cannot go around the Ace. So for instance my seemingly lucrative hand of King-Ace-Two-Three-Four...turns out to be pretty impotent against nearly everything else.

Finally I believe in probability. But sometimes I slip into a way of thinking where my sheer will to receive a Jack will be enough to make it so. This, I believe, is a bad approach to gambling--what with it requiring nothing short of magic to enable its success. Turns out the force...not so much with me.

So how did I in my first forray into online poker. I cleaned up. I messed people up like snow in DC. I have to figure it's a combination of several nearly irreplicable factors. 1. It's pretend money. No one bets as cavalierly and irregularly as I do when it's real money. It's hard to prepare for a strategy that seems based on star charts and not the cards. 2. I drew very well. I realized early on that when I have a good hand I bet it a lot, and when I have a bad hand I fold. Simple enough, but it negates the principle that "I'm due" and it forced me to realize that no matter how much I wanted the next card to be just wasn't that likely.

I was playing 25 cent raise but with no limit. I guess that means you have to raise at least a quarter, and eventually as the betting goes on you can raise as much as you have. Well doing this a few times when the pot goes from 1 buck to say 200...and then does great things for your pretend bankroll. Fischer price my first gambling addiction set. So flush (see I can use the terms) with this success I started to think, this is easy money. If only I were playing with money instead of spare electrons. But I knew enough to fight this thought and played again the next morning...again with fake money. I got the shit kicked out of me. I got beaten like I owed them money and in the process they took mine, so apparently I did. Finally realizing that it's not just luck but a process of measured risks, the game seems interesting.

Though the chorus of "The Gambler" plays in my head and I realize I should probably learn all the rules, because I have no earthly idea when to "fold 'em."

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