Friday, July 28, 2006

Gut shot straights and fluky twists

I have fallen in love with the world of poker. Rarely can a game create so much drama yet be so simple. Most people pick up the game quickly. With no athletic prowess, university qualifications or major bank balances needed, poker is fun. That’s why I would recommend it to anyone.
Like most new players entering the game, my affection for poker came from the Late Night Poker series. People like Barney Boatman made this show. I watched as Dave Colclough tried hopelessly to get a read off Jac Arama. Phil Hellmuth being wound up by “le dangeroux”, and Devilfish being, well, Devilfish. It made for wonderful television.

My introduction to playing poker came through the dreaded internet. Interestingly however, unlike most of my peers, I never took to it. I found it humdrum and unexciting. I wanted Late Night Poker. This was solitaire.

So one Monday evening I set off to my local casino, The Merrion Casino, Dublin. It was a freeroll competition and offered little risk for a broke student. I already knew the basics and I was ready to play cards. I made the final table that evening and have never looked back. It was truly great entertainment. It wasn’t in the slightest bit intimidating and it was nice to be in with similar people.

My success since then has not been consistent. I’ve learned what its like to be “all-in”. And subsequently be “all-out”. I’ve discovered what a gut-shot straight draw is, and more painfully what it’s like when your opponent hits it. I’ve learned that people will do anything to wind you up.

These things are all positive however. They add to a player’s experience. This makes poker interesting. You can become depressed at the table. You’re playing well but someone up there is determined to make your luck hell. However, I’m yet to find someone who doesn’t smile when they’re lucks in. You liven up. You laugh. You’re getting more chips. Poker offers a great adrenaline when you’re winning. The real masters however are those who can treat these sensations the same. That’s one skill I want to master some day.

My dealings with “poker celebrities” have been limited but useful. Players such as Andy Black I feel are heroes of our time. I recall Ram Vaswani telling me I need to ignore moaners and keep focused. Roy Brindley has been especially accommodating and pleasant. It’s these players who make me want to succeed at this game. They reach out to novices rather than spitting in their faces. This is what makes poker a classy game. It boosts buckets of respect.

I urge spectators of the game to give poker a try. I was a spectator myself once and I know it’s great to watch. Only when you sit down at a table does the true adrenaline rush. When I watch Late Night Poker now, I feel the bad beats more. I can behold the check-raise and master plays. I appreciate poker more. Nobody wants to intimidate you or get rid of you. Everybody’s welcome at the tables.

It was at the final of the EPT in Dublin that I realized how poker had come full circle for me. As Barney Boatman told me a story about one of the Hendon Mob’s PR stunts, it clicked for me. One of the founding players of Late Night Poker was chatting to me as if we were mates. It wasn’t long ago that I looked up to players like him. Like a kid my age would look up to David Beckham or Michael Schumacher. Poker is one big community. No matter how insignificant a player you are, you’re still a member. Long may this trend continue. I hope one day I can play this role and help out an intrigued novice.