Like an elusive, tender beauty concealed in a fragrant, wild garden, poker waits to take your hand and lead you down the path to a fragile world held together by green felt and cards; a world that few ever walk away from once they have entered.
It calls to you each time you leave, tempting you to return, to take a seat and battle for all the chips. It tests you to see if you have what it takes to walk away with your sanity and sense of reason when all your big hands have been trampled and crushed.
It elevates you to the stars when you have played your best game and have all the chips to show for it. It is one of the most unique mediums you will ever try to conquer and if you play the game well or as if it was your first time at the table, there are times you will wonder if you are controlling it or if it is controlling you.
Why do people play poker? Money might be your first thought…playing poker for a living does sound pretty damn cool, right? It did not sound that cool to the masses up until a few years ago when The World Series of Poker took poker out of the back rooms and dimly lit hallways and shoved it right into mainstream television and in the World’s face. Now everyone is a star and ready to say, “All in!”
I believe the majority of people that take a seat in a game, at home or in a casino, are usually there for social reasons. It is someplace that we are always welcome, all of us, any time of day or night. We never have to call ahead to make a reservation or make excuses when we leave. Nor do we have to stay an allotted time before packing up and hitting the door. We do not even have to play. We can stroll in and out, visit with everyone, order cocktails, and pull up a chair and ‘sweat’ a player, all without ever having invested a dime in the action.
I also believe that most people do not even know why they play poker. And keep in mind that it is not necessary to know why you play unless you are serious about winning and plan to make poker your source of income or gambling is a problem in your life.
If you want to play for fun, jump into low limit action, load your chips up with both hands, and get ready for the ride of your life. Never look back and do not bother with any explanation of why or how you got to the River with that hand. After all, you are there to play and you purchased your chips so play them any way you want.
If you already are or are considering going ‘pro’ or just want to improve your skills as an occasional player, you have to be aware of everything. That would include your reason and determination for being there. If you are there for the wrong reasons, you will never beat the game. And remember the game is long term, just one big, never-ending poker game.
How do I fit into this world? I deal poker in Las Vegas. I play poker competitively but not for a living. I watch the best and worst players in the world compete in that fragile world of green felt and cards. That world is my home, my connection to the melting pot of mankind.
I have the best seat in the house. I deal, watch, and listen, through all the limits and all the games, to all the ‘name brand’ players, and all the new kids that come in to try their skills and establish their place in the poker world. I see them all at their best and worst…and believe me, it ain’t pretty sometimes.
A lot of you learned to play poker as child, or with friends during your teenage or college years. Not this kid! My only association with it was watching Maverick on TV when I was a kid. I jumped head first into the Poker World when a friend slammed chips in front of me in a 5 Card Stud game and then played the whole hand for me. I won it with split eights. That was it for me. That was over 20 years ago.
I have never looked back and wished I were someplace else or doing something else. I know who is controlling what…poker is right where it should be, a daily part of my life, for all the right reasons.