(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


Not much to tell.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The False Allure of High-Stakes Poker

I've read a bunch about poker lately (particularly Texas Hold 'Em), including its star, David Negreanu, a 23 year-old Canadian by way of Romanian ancestry who has matured into one of the "sport's" stars, gets along with everyone and wins big pots. I've glimpsed at it on TV, but if you can't convince me that ice hockey or lacrosse are saleable on TV, there's no way that you can convince me that watching people play cards on TV is at all interesting (heck, it isn't interesting watching people play cards in person, and at least ice hockey and lacrosse very much are). Finally, with "the boys" a few weeks ago, I played a few games of Texas Hold 'Em and lost. Quite frankly, in a world where I have to exercise great patience with many things, I'd rather spend my spare time fishing on a quiet lake than wondering about the significance of the "river" card and sitting for a while after folding hand after hand to win the "all-in" pot.

Pet rocks. Hula hoops. Frenchy Fuqua's platform shoes with the goldfish in the heels. I've seen 'em all.

Most are harmless fads. Some, like Jazzercise, were quite helpful. Others -- like retro baseball stadiums with the impaired-view seats and irregular outfield fences -- leave and come back. All in a lifetime.

I really don't care what people do in their spare time, within reason, and am so middle-of-the-road politically that my political species is on the endangered list. I don't think that poker is a sport. It's a game, and ESPN is entitled to broadcast games if they so desire, but the skills required are more akin to whether a Wall Street trader goes long in Chilean bonds than whether Adam Dunn can hit a curve ball or Juventus striker David Trezeguet (and if you've never seen him play, you should) can curve a free kick over a wall of defenders and past the AC Milan goalkeeper. There is no athletic skill involved, except, perhaps, the skills typically required at the big consulting firms, law firms, investment banks or that are required of residents at hospitals -- staying up late and maintaining your game face, in this case, yes, your poker face, all the while.

Except there's one catch. Guys can fall in love with Madden's 2005 Football video game, get hooked on a number of EA games (including FIFA Soccer, where it's pretty easy to figure out who the world's best playes are), love to go to their hometown's NFL games, play two rounds of golf on the weekends, fish, bowl or whatever, but the object of those types of activities is either comradery, excercise or diversion, period. You aren't engaged in the activity for the purpose of making money (okay, some of you may argue that many who watch the NFL bet on games, and the spreads make the NFL so bettable, and you have a point, but many who watch those games do not wager significant sums on them, if they wager at all). In poker, though, that's the whole point.

And that's the whole problem.

In society, we always read about the winners when they're winning. They're the guys with the big cars, the great hi-tech wi-fi pads, the big wads of money and all of the bling. They are the Negreanus and the Doyle Brunsons of the world, the gaming world's equivalent of supermodels. The flavors of the month. They win, and they win big.

No one writes about the losers until it's too late, until many have lost their savings, their families, their tuition monies, all because they've read about a game that they think that they can play because it doesn't require them to hit a golf ball 325 yards, or to shoot a basketball or run fast. No, this game can be played by average Joes with high cholesterol, 20-400 vision and exceptionally tight hamstrings. So the thinking is that if Negreanu can play, why can't I?

Read the recent Sunday NY Times article on him, and you'll see that he's an elite performer. He has the game wired, it's part art, part science, and if you're just some guy who fares okay in five-card draw, you're a lamb, and his table is your slaughterhouse. Go on-line, and you'll find many elite players looking for the local yokel small-stakes player to beat out of several thousand dollars. Many will learn their lessons and head back to the cozy confines of their local neighborhood games. But others will want the easy way out, think that winning shouldn't be that hard, and they'll get in deeper and deeper, holding out for some window of glory that will make them rich and famous.

Instead, they'll go broke.

I have no problem at all with the elite players who do this for a living. Those who aren't elite players, though, should remember that those who win have great talents for winning games like these, the same way Kobe Bryant can hit a game-ending jumper or Tiger Woods can sink a put on the first playoff hole to win the Masters. Sure, it may be cards, and cards do not require athletic ability, but don't let that fool you one bit.

Either you know what you're doing in those games -- in Vegas, in the Bahamas, in Reno or on-line -- or you don't. Figure that out before you bet your mortgage money in one of these games.

Or else risk being one of those losers that no one ever writes about -- unless you're a reporter covering personal bankruptcy cases.


Anonymous SCJ said...

What other game can you lose big on one hand and win it all back the next? Can you blame today's immediate society for loving this game?

I find it exciting ;)

1:48 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

I made one error; I think it's Daniel Negreanu and not David. It is an interesting game; I'm not really knocking it per se, and it can be exciting -- as a player. People should just be aware that unlike, say, playing a round of golf, if you lose an all-in pot in a game with a $10,000 entry fee, you've lost $10,000. In contrast, you might pay $250 to play a TPC course, but even if you shoot a 120, all you're out is the $250. You're going to have trouble convincing me, though, that it's a good TV spectator sport.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

make money from home
is easy. make money from home

4:30 PM  
Blogger Julian Silvain said...

I skim a lot of blogs, and so far yours is in the Top 3 of my list of favorites. I'm going to dive in and try my hand at it, so wish me luck.

It'll be in a totally different area than yours (mine is about mens male enhancement reviews) I know, it sounds strange, but it's like anything, once you learn more about it, it's pretty cool. It's mostly about mens male enhancement reviews related articles and subjects.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

work at home home business idea to make money online
is easy. work at home home business idea to make money online

10:22 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home