Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Drizz has posted a challenge to us poker bloggers. Answer this question:

Why do you play poker besides the money? What motivates you to comes back after winning that SnG or losing to a runner-runner flush?

It's an interesting question, because I'm sure many of the people playing poker right now are playing because it's "the cool thing to do" these days, or because they saw it on TV and it looks exciting. Maybe they play because their friends do, and if they didn't, they'd be spending Friday nights alone while the gang got together to play cards. I'd bet that a lot of people got into playing poker on a whim and are now at least semi-serious about their play, but have never considered Drizz's reflective question: what place does poker have in your life?

I've always been serious about my pursuit to learn to play poker. I rarely get into hobbies and such without diving headfirst into them and committing to them. Maybe that's why I have so few hobbies, and why I'm so obsessed with the ones I do have. But what place does poker have in my life now?

To answer that, I've got to rehash a bit of history here. Back in high school, my friends played poker (circa 1990). I can recall many a night sitting around Dusty's kitchen table or whoever was sponsoring our degeneracy for the evening, watching everybody else play cards. Why was I watching and not playing? Well, certain people (Klyph in particular) would insist that we play strip poker, and I refused to strip. A prude I was not, but very self-conscious - much too shy to get nekkid with my buddies. So, my excuse would always be, "I don't know how to play poker." I insisted that I couldn't learn it, no matter how hard I tried. Truth be told, I'd never tried. It was just a convenient excuse.

Fast forward a decade and a few years, and I meet Randy (circa March 2003). We start hanging out. He plays poker online. I find myself pulling up a chair behind him on many nights, watching him play on PokerStars. I'm intrigued. He wins a lot. As he plays out hands and explains to me what he thinks his opponents have, and why he's making the moves he makes, I get the notion that "hey, maybe I could do that..." Randy starts teaching me the poker starting hands. He told me a little chant to help me remember the hand rankings, and would pop-quiz me in the grocery store, at bedtime, any random time he could. After a few months, I signed up on PokerStars myself.

I start playing poker online, and picked up Phil Hellmuth's "Play Poker Like the Pro's." I love Hellmuth - his antics just crack me the hell up. Some people are annoyed by his childish behavior, but I just find it to be hysterical. And I liked his book. I don't play much like his book suggests now, but I started out that way, and did well enough to gain some confidence in my play.

Around the same time, I started watching poker on TV. I'd TiVo the WPT shows, and the ESPN WSOP, even Celebrity Poker Showdown (where I still crush on Phil Gordon). I bought more books, and started holding home games and attending any game I could get myself invited to. My friend Scott started up his Diamond Games. Armando started getting into poker. Life was good.

It still is.

Not much has changed in the past year since the poker boom in my life began. I play online regularly, and still play at every home game and tourney I can get myself invited to. I still read poker books like a fiend, and still love it.

So what role does poker play in my life now? Why do I do it?

I think the primary reason I play is because I just love the game. I'm a "thinker" - I've always preferred thinking tasks to active tasks. I played a few requisite sports in my childhood and high school, but always preferred activities like filling out crossword puzzles or reading books. I've been working on computers since I was 9 (circa 1983), and used to sit around writing little computer programs that would print my name over and over on the screen while my friends played Red Rover outside. I'm a geek.

The theory and math of poker appeal to my geek nature. I'm infinitely intrigued by the psychology of poker, and have great faith in the mathematics and statistical rules of nature and the game. It's easy for me to believe in those things; I'm a very methodical and logical person (that's the computer programmer in me).

Another reason I play is because I like the challenge and competitive nature of it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like winning... a lot. It's one of the best feelings in the world to be "good" at something, and to be able to prove it in ways such as winning tournaments - those are very public and very gratifying ways to reinforce the ol' ego. It feels good. When you can do something well that you also enjoy doing, that almost feeds the desire to do more of it.

The actual "winning money" part of playing poker is almost secondary to me. I mean - sure, I like money, and free money like that won playing poker is the best kind of money out there. But, I started out playing online with fifty bucks, and spent my first year or so losing that fifty bucks and buying back in. I figured it to be a much less expensive hobby than some I've had in the past. I knew that someday it was possible that I could profit from playing, but that wasn't my primary motivation.

So, I suppose that's why I play: because I love the game, and because I enjoy the challenge and competition.

What role does it play in my life?

Poker is a hobby of mine. It is probably my most time consuming hobby, if you include blog reading and posting, playing, and reading poker books as activities related to the hobby of playing poker. I still consider it a hobby, though, because when work, family, or relationships beckon, poker takes a backseat.

I'd like to add a question here to Drizz's train of thought: What role do I expect poker to play in my future?

As I see more of the financial potential of poker, I think I would like to work towards it being a source of part-time income. I was watching an ESPN show the other night where they replayed the final table with Fossilman doing commentary on what he was thinking, and he made a comment about spending his early years grinding out a $7/hour win rate at blackjack as his part time job. I'd love to be profitable enough at poker to consider it a part time source of income.

I admit - seeing all the dead money out there on the poker tables of the world, and watching how lucrative it can be, I've had the fleeting thought of, "how cool would it be to pay my electric bill with poker money every month?" Or half the mortgage...

I don't have aspirations to become a professional poker player. I love the other "jobs" in my life too much at this point to even think of giving them up. (I teach, and do web programming). But, I also can't envision my life at this point without poker. I think I will continue to want to move up the ladder in limits, and with that, I may want "more" poker in my life. That I have no way to know. Time will tell.

For now, poker is a hobby for which I have great passion and hunger for knowledge and experience. It's something that I love to do that has the fortunate side effect of being potentially profitable. What more can one ask for?


  1. WillWonka said...
    Nicely done... I do believe I am in the same boat as you... It IS my hobby (as I have yet to make a withdrawel other than back to my Neteller account).. and for all the same reasons you said...
    Bazkar said...
    Great answer to the question. I'd love to hear the rhyme Randy taught you to help you learn the hand rankings as my wife is slowly learning the game and has a hard time remembering them. And when we going to meet up at Trump for some live poker?
    Shelly said...
    Hey Baz - Soooooon!!! I get home from Springfield this weekend. We should pick one of these upcoming weeks - I'm dying to go!

    The poker hands rhyme is more like a cheerleading chant, LOL! But it's rhythmic so it made it easy to remember. I'll have to chant it for ya when we hit up Trump :)
    Ignatious said...
    great post.

    I've had the fleeting thought of, "how cool would it be to pay my electric bill with poker money every month?" Or half the mortgage...

    it's a crazy thought, ain't it?
    Unknown said...
    Thanks Shelly :)

    For the future if I card club is ever close enough, and if I ever see a reason that I'm becoming a profitable player... I'd like to try being a dealer/prop player.

    But playing for the mortgage and/or electric bill is a scary thought.
    Pauly said...
    Quality post.

    The best thing about poker is that it can fit into your life a variety of ways ... some of which are constantly changing.

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