One of the ways I’m trying to lose weight is by playing poker. I realize that makes no sense, but I love poker so, hey, nothing ventured nothing gained.
Other gambling games are okay. They’re fine in limited doses, but poker is different.
(NOTE: For those of you who don’t know poker, I am going to deliberately avoid poker lingo as much as possible.)
If you haven’t been to a casino recently or don’t play poker, the difference is very simple; every other game in a casino you’re playing against the house and you are probably going to lose. Blackjack is the most even game a casino offers, but the house still wins by a tiny margin.
But in poker, you’re playing against other customers. (The casino makes money by taking a small amount of every pot; this is the “rake.”) The edge is completely up to the players. If you’re smart, patient, and clever, you can make money, or at least not lose much. If you’re impatient or drunk or play on hunches, you can lose all your money in six minutes.
Well, actually, you can lose all your money in six minutes anyway. No Limit Hold Em is a spectacularly exciting game, but it’s like fencing; you parry and battle and dance around and then suddenly someone loses all their money. Once I went to the casino on Gatineau, bought in for $200, and my first hand was dealt a pair of kings, the second best hand you can have. The flop brought me a third king. Soon all my money was in, and then some idiot lucked out and hit an inside straight on the final card. I lost every penny on the very first hand in spectacularly unlucky fashion.
All nine of the other players at the table stared at me, waiting for me to explode in anger. I smiled, said “Nice catch,” and pulled out another $200. After several hours of play I made all my money back and then some.
Someone once said that poker takes thirty minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. That’s literally true; you could learn the game and learn enough strategy to hold your own in a low limit game in an hour, tops. But if you play for six months you’ll be a little better, and in a year you’ll be better still, and in a year more, better still.
Playing with my wife is the best, because on the way home we discuss hands we played and learn from what we did right and wrong. I should point out that we certainly do not talk about them or cooperate at the poker table at all because
- Cooperating with other players is cheating (“Collusion”) and grounds for being thrown out of a casino, and
- My wife would no more collude in poker than she would murder her own children. When the cards are out, my wife’s purpose in life is to win, and if she has to take me for every last dollar I have, well, if I didn’t want her to I should have played blackjack.
I strongly suggest you learn to play poker. It’s not terribly expensive, really – you can play it on your phone for literally pennies, and even casino poker is a better gamble than, well, most other things in a casino. Perhaps most importantly, though, it’s a game of strategy that rewards clear thinking, patience, and logic, and God knows the world needs more of those things.
(TIP: Any form of poker in which you’re playing for free will teach you the rules, but will teach you nothing about strategy. It’s strategically meaningless if you do not stand to lose something. Even playing for pennies makes the game mean something.)
To my delight, next week we’re headed to Casino Rama, where we plan on playing poker, eating a nice steak dinner, playing poker, sleeping, playing poker, having a massage, and getting a little more poker in before heading home. I’ll update you on how we did as part of our ongoing Poker Joker series.