Thursday, September 27, 2007

Playing your hands as the hands blaze

I'm not a terribly good poker player. That is not to say I'm a bad one. When I'm honest about it, which is occasionally, I am a middling-poker player. But I like poker, heck I love poker, if there is a sport for me, it is poker. All this could logically lead to the conclusion that I belong in small, friendly games away from big money pots. But those games aren't the same, in the same way a baseball game among friends isn't the same as a professional game, even in the minor leagues. Still, I try to be careful not to indulge my taste for the game too much, except on exceptional incidents, including one rather spectacularly unsuccessful trip to Atlantic City. But I do like the game, and I can't say that it's merely an idle passion as I might be able to say for other sports I enjoyed, such as soccer and frisbee.

Like I said I'm a middling poker player, but the frustrating part is that I have moments of greatness. I have moments where I hold my own against top-notch players and even triumph over them. And I'm not talking about moments of luck, although I have plenty of thrilling stories of those, the real pride of a poker player is not winning on the river, but carefully constructing a win based on knowledge of the cards and your opponent. And I've had moments like that. However it's more than moments of greatness, overall I think I have some potential. My mid-game, and lately even my early game has been rather good lately, but I have yet to successfully master the late game. And even though my early game is improving it still occasionally leads me to folly. The key to my skill, I think, is aggression when I have something, but playing conservative when I have nothing. I try never to bluff with absolutely nothing. If I adhere to this strategy, I play well. The particular odds of cards come into play, the particular characteristics and behaviors of the players come into play, but while those are key to the big win, they cannot distract from the core strategy. At least when it comes to me, I have known spectacular players who have other strategies.

And yet I get cocky and/or I get sloppy. It's so easy to do. To bet because you want to see the cards, or because you think it's too late to back out. To feel invincible. To underestimate your opponent and overestimate your ability. To force away the real knowledge of what your opponent's hand really is. It is just so easy. And so utterly frustrating.

So the key to this, is giving up poker, or working on my technique. Giving up poker is an option, but although that Atlantic City incident may suggest otherwise, in general poker is not a very expensive habit for me and provides me with a lot of entertainment and satisfaction. The Atlantic City incident is actually the exception that proves the rule since trips to high gambling places are likely to be such odd occasions in my life (unless my game improves, and I mean not just luck-wise improves, but skill-wise improves). Thus the choice falls to improving my game.

But there is another frustration. The terrible frustration of not being able to find a good game. And my awful really, organizational skills hampering my own creation of games. Thus I am confined to irregular intervals, the distance between which often impedes my learning process and leaves me perpetually rusty. It's highly annoying all and all. But there is such a beauty to the sport. It is a contention of fate mixed with a contention of minds. And the best players can beat both. Poker comes down to knowing the sport and knowing people, and the sport is certainly enjoyable, at least from my angle, it's got hope, despair and suspense mixed in with the fellowship of the table, but this combination of skills it requires makes it thrilling, especially since when perfected, it defies even destiny.

Ah, but that's the romance of poker. It is I think a sport for me, but let me say not for everyone. Some are not good with it, and some are good with it but not good enough with it. Even though they might win and win repeatedly, if a player can't stop gambling, if it becomes a need that dominates his life, well, then he's lost already. I've seen such things happened, and to be honest, I've enabled such things. That's my shame. But it is a shame of not being a good enough friend, not of the sport itself. The sport itself remains beautiful in my eyes, even if I am a bit ugly in its eyes. But who knows? With a nice hair cut, some good clothes and a charming presentation, perhaps even I can clean up to the World Poker Tour. Poker is all about defying destiny after all.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

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