I used to like playing poker. Really like it. I used to play with my friends over the summer while we were in college. We’d play a five-dollar buy-in, re-buy all you like, from around 9:00 until 2, 3, 4:00 in the morning. Then two days later we’d do it again. We had nothing better to do for a few months, and if you think about it, even if we lost, bought in again, and lost again, it was still cheaper than going to a bar or to the movies.
We used to organize tournaments where 10-12 people would play at two tables for six to eight hours, and in the end, I always finished second. Always. Yes, that was frustrating, but hey, it was a sign of something good, right?
Soon some of us graduated to playing in casinos. I played some $2-$4 limit hold ’em (if you don’t know what any of these terms mean, I’m not going to explain them here. Sorry), which was kind of a culture shock; we had been playing no-limit hold ’em with nickel and dime blinds back at home, so the structure of the game, and the stakes, were significantly different. But I soon got my bearings and figured that the best way to avoid the pitfalls that came from terrible/drunk/terribly drunk players playing too many hands was to play with (slightly) smarter players. Instead of buying in at a $2-$4 table for $200 and leaving with $60, I was buying in at a $5-$10 table for $300 and leaving with $305.
That’s right; on multiple occasions I spent in excess of six to eight hours playing poker and ended up making between one and eight dollars profit. But it was cool, because I liked playing. I liked the game more than the money.
Despite playing for higher stakes at the casino, we still played at home. We settled into a routine (Sunday nights, so as not to hamper any Friday or Saturday night weekend plans), and the buy-ins escalated. Most recently, most people were buying for $40 at the start of the night.
A funny thing happened, though. About a year ago, I just flat-out stopped liking poker. It may have been a result of some horrible beats I took at the casino and in the home game. It may have been partly due to the fact that it was the same four or five people that continued showing up, so there was no growth to the game, and people were sick of everyone else’s crap.
You see, gambling in most forms, and poker in particular, brings out the worst in people. I had always been pretty good at keeping my mouth shut and letting other people’s battles affect their game, but when some of the worst players at the table started talking about odds and using poker jargon (often incorrectly, I might add) all the time, that bugged me. Like, get over yourself. You are not Phil Hellmuth. Stop talking about what so-and-so did wrong when you called a bet pre-flop with jack-seven. Oh, wait, it was suited? Shut up.
Given enough time, any poker game will turn into a proverbial spitting match (not the phrase I actually wanted to use there, but let’s keep it clean). Eventually, as others started bickering all the time, I started bickering. The poker wasn’t interesting, and I didn’t have very good cell phone reception, so there was nothing else to do.
Eventually there came an instance where I had a long day at work, and that night decided not to play. It turned out there weren’t enough people, so there was no game. I realized I didn’t miss it, and had no need for it, and stopped playing altogether. The game dried up and since the Christmas holiday, we haven’t played.
Until now. Tonight, we ride again, I guess. I have not played poker in any form, at home or in a casino, in close to half a year.
Apparently there will be six people there tonight. We’ll have some drinks, probably some snacks, and hopefully some fun. But if my history with the game, and this game in particular, is of any relevance…well, two out of three ain’t bad.