Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just Another Night - More Ramblings

I'm cashing out at the Vic last night when I hear "Joker" Joe Grech telling somebody else how bad the game was, full of rocks, no gamblers and so on. Hold on, weren't he and I in the same game? There were at least four spots in the game that were good value, one of them being a real superstar who, whilst I was playing, lost about 3 grand.

Perception is a big thing in poker, what other players think about you and vice-versa. I was astonished at Grech's impression of the game, it seemed pretty good to me. What did he expect? Players to call raises with Q2 off? That doesn't happen.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong and it was a bad game; poker is so subjective and one's ideas about the game and how it should be played are often changing.

As I drove home and reflected on the session I thought to myself what terrible cards I kept getting dealt. Even for me I was playing super-duper granite. But hang on, didn't I win three pots (two of them being a decent size) with runner-runner back-door stuff? How often does that happen? So much for thinking I wasn't getting any hands when in fact on three occasions I was dealt perfect turn and river cards.

There was also a guy in the game who, when I first came across him, I thought was a complete fucking prick. Of course, as time has gone by and I've played with him a few times, I now don't think so badly of him.

I still think he's a bit of a loudmouth idiot seeking validation from his peers in the poker room, but now I don't mind his company. I know he's not an absolute dog like some of the scumbags one finds in poker rooms.

Still, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of times you meet people who have "found themselves" in poker. That is, they've found an environment where they feel like they fit in. It's alright to be "wacky". It's all part of the game isn't it? Their boorish personalities can now expand because it's all a part of table image.

It's good fun yelling for a black deuce on the turn because they've seen other "pros" do it. It's great that now you can straddle and look like a fearless gambler. Even better, you can berate the rocks for playing tight and bask in the glow of approval from the other "real" players. They've learnt all the funny phrases like Michael Arnold's "One seat here!" or Francis Rohan's immortal "You'll be alright".

They've finally made some friends (or at least think they have made friends) with whom they share a passion. Poker attracts all kinds of misfits and now all of a sudden they've found what they think is their spiritual home. And it's full of like-minded people like themselves.

Except it's not. It just seems like it. A lot of the fellas who were friendly to them in the beginning probably just wanted them to keep playing in the game. And, like I said, after you've spent a bit of time playing cards with the same people you can't help but exchange at least a few friendly words.

And soon after that you're chatting more. About how so and so is a good tournament player , but useless at cash. About your ex-wives. About some strip club in Vegas. And so on. Next thing you know, you're both getting the same flight to Barcelona. Or the Eurostar to Paris for the big festival at the Aviation. You might even start swapping percentages in the same tournaments. Maybe even lend each other money.

Basically it's the poker equivalent of having a drug buddy. That is, not a real friend, just somebody else suffering from the same sickness as you. Misery loves company. Somebody else who understands the weird sub-culture you have entered into. Squares and outsiders have no idea what you're going through. In fact, they find it very boring, so you have to have someone else who understands what you're going on about when you tell that bad beat story.

If this all sounds judgemental and a little dark I didn't really mean it to. After all, one of the attractions of poker for me was that I felt I had discovered my own Cheers ("Where everybody knows your name..."). Kindred spirits were all around me, all the faces said hello to me, other players asked what I thought about a particular coup, I was one of the boys. Fuck, I even used to put on a bit of a "persona" when playing. Thankfully I stopped that when I realised it just wasn't my style.

The truth is poker is a great escape. I believe that applies to both the recreational player and the pro. For me it is even more true than ever before, now that I have had a kid. I don't care whether the game is good or bad anymore, it's just great to be away from the infinite drudgery of domesticity.

I also remember a period a few years ago when things were going pretty badly in my life, but as soon as I sat down in a game at the Vic all those problems just melted away. Incidentally, I went on a terrific upswing at that time too - I've never understood those poker writers who say that one shouldn't play when one has problems at home; what a load of bollocks, that's the best time to play.