If you play poker, it is almost a given that someone has asked you this question. It is also a good bet that the person asking the question was not a poker player.
Thanks to the poker boom on television, the non-poker population has mostly changed their opinion of poker players. Poker players have shed their unsavory character skins and come into the light as competitors much like other sports figures. This persona usually applies to tournament players however, since it is this arena that Joe Public is familiar with, again thanks to televised major poker tournaments.
But what if you are known by your family and friends as a poker player but you don’t play tournaments? It may be easy for them to see why anyone would want to play in a tournament and try to win a lottery size payday. Making them understand why you play 1/2 Limit Stud on PokerStars every night though may prove a challenge.
Why We Play Poker?
Have you ever asked yourself this question? If not, maybe you should. Recognizing the basic reason why you play poker may help your game improve and turn losses into wins. Once you understand why you play, then you should direct your game level accordingly. Knowing the type of player you are should govern what limits and games you are playing. If you play to relax and have fun with the $100 a month you set aside for your poker recreation, you logically shouldn’t be in a 2/4 Hold’em game.
Why we play poker is a simple question with a myriad of very complex answers. The answers are as individual as the players themselves, although many players share at least some of the same reasons. On the one side of the spectrum we have the problem gambler, the action junkie who just must gamble. On the extreme other end is the professional player, who has made poker their career and plays for the money. While both groups have plenty of members, most of us hold a position somewhere in between.
Many poker players grew up in a household where card games were the norm. Whether it was Old Maid, Go-Fish or poker, most of us were exposed to some form of card game at an early age. If a formal academic study was to be done on poker players’ childhoods, I would bet a huge percentage of current players were raised in “card playing” households.
Growing up, the game in our house was poker. Dad threw the old, gray wool, Navy blanket on the kitchen table and set out the cards and plastic chips in the revolving chip rack. Mom set out snacks, ashtrays, and iced the beer. As soon as the other two couples arrived, the game was on until the wee hours. The games played were always Dealers Choice, opening the door for such variations as Spit-in-the-Ocean, High Spade in the Hole, and Dr. Pepper. It was on these smoke filled Friday nights that my love affair with poker started, when I would sit on Dad’s lap and bet, raise, or fold when he told me to.
Later in life I found myself job hunting and ended up in the box, dealing poker six nights a week for two different clubs. The view from the dealer's chair taught me the game and it wasn’t long before I was spending most of my time either dealing or playing. Since I was single, there was nothing to be home for anyway and poker was just too much fun!
Early on in my poker life I never wondered why I was playing but since then I think I have figured it out. For me, it is foremost the competition and the personal challenge. Having never been a very athletic person, poker was something I could easily compete in. The fact I could compete against the men on an even, green playing field made it even better.
Then there was the money; I discovered I really loved to win. Winning gave me a feeling of accomplishment, just like if I had ran a marathon and come in first, with much less physical effort! Winning also enabled me to buy that new stereo, TV, and furniture I longed for.
Another thing poker provided me with was my primary social outlet. Not being one to go bar hopping, poker gave me a comfortable, safe environment in which to hang out with people I knew and have fun.
Then later in my life I moved to areas where live poker was not available, until the greatest thing happened – online poker! I still play for all the same reasons, but now I don’t have to wait for a game to start, get dressed or drive anywhere and hope there is a game. All I have to do is log-in and start playing, anytime day or night. For a poker player this opportunity is nothing short of nirvana!
The venues and games may have changed but the basic reasons why I play poker remains the same - I just love the game.
Grab a Chair…..see you there!