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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, April 08, 2006

Swimming in a sea of sharks

You cannot beat him

If you own cable TV, you've seen poker played almost endlessly.

You might even think you can beat these guys. You go online, you can win money, so maybe one day, you think, let me enter a tournament, I can be the next Chris Moneymaker, who went from online poker to winning the World Series of Poker in 2003.

Well, I've played poker since I was eight. There is not enough money on earth to get me to enter a poker tournament. I like cards, I gamble a few times a year, but when I see poker on TV, I know that these folks live in a different world than I do, and playing with them would be like swimming in a sea of sharks.

Here's the deal. Howard Lederer, the man pictured above, is rich. He is not rich from work. He is rich from poker. Like many sharks, he makes his living from eating little fish. Not someone like you, mind you, but other pros. You? Well, someone has to be chum.

Now, your ego may say something different, it may say he's just a guy. And he is, except he's a guy who makes his living from poker. And you are not. It's not like you'll get to a final table with him, you won't, but there are a lot more people who make their living at cards than you realize, and they are in every casino.

I know some of you are going to YearyKos and may get ideas. Don't. Gamble all you want, drive out to the Bunny Ranch and fuck a porn star, play roulette and blackjack, but pass by Binions and the poker tables. Just walk on by like you never saw it. Because if you don't, you'll wish you had.

What TV doesn't show you, besides the effects of sititng on your ass for hours on end, is the way people actually play hands. Even the two hour World Poker Tour is just the highlights of the best hands. Oh yeah, in real poker, you don't see the other guy's hand. Besides, the thing is not about the cards, but playing the guy at the table. And if you can't do that, well, someone has to lose, and you are someone.

I like poker, but it came to me that people are seeing this on TV and thinking, shit, I can do this. You can't.

And then there are a lot of online players who think they've got this under control. You don't.

I feel like I'm watching a recruiting ad for swiming with sharks: come on in, you can swim with them, maybe punch one on the nose, and off camera, they're all fucking laughing at you, knowing they are going to eat you alive and spit out your bones.

We live in weird times, we have a high risk, highly skilled activity shown on TV like it was no different than playing slots. Which boggles my mind. I grew up with gambling people, I learned cards before I was out of 3rd grade, much less knew how people had sex. And to me, playing cards is hard, tricky work, which is why my father moved on to craps and I stick to blackjack and roulette.

I think we ignore how TV can change our behavior. Before poker was a cable TV hit, the idea of playing it was relegated to Friday night games for married men. Now, you have thousands of people who want to emulate the guys they see on TV and don't really understand what they're buying into, how many pros, people who play every day, fell by the wayside, even with skills.

In a couple of years, you're going to hear some real disasters about guys who wanted to play poker for real and bankrupt themselves and their families.

Jen here. Sorry if I've been light on posting lately; very VERY busy @ work and otherwise occupied. But, I had to chime in on this thread.

I have a very close friend who admits that he has had a gambling problem in the past, and has a family history of same. He has bet on baseball, football, whatever. Internet poker is this guy's new drug...EXCEPT that he DOESN'T SEE ANYTHING WRONG with this particular game.

To the best of my knowledge, and what he's told me, he's "only" lost a few grand of his own money, and he always claims that "you can't ever loose more money at poker than what you put in." As in if you buy into an online tournament for $300, that's the most you can loose.

What he seems to forget is that most of us CAN'T put that kind of money in up front. Now, without getting too personal: This guy is unemployed but gets very high-paying, longterm temp gigs in his field. In the past, he has done well enough in online games to place into "real" meatspace tournaments, and has even been flown to and put up in at a few...all of which he lost fairly early on, but he still had placed well enough against the online crowd to qualify.

As a result, though, all he DOES now is play poker...and he has pissed away an enormous amount of money in winnings on more bets. $15K in cash that he won in a major gambling venue? Gone. All gone. That and many other smaller pots.

He has seriously risked our friendship lately by showing up late or forgetting social occasions because he was tied up for days in online tournaments. He is convinced that he can bring down "one of the big guys" that he's seen on TV. Despite past gambling problems and the fact that he has literally pissed away hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, he doesn't see anything wrong with THIS particular game or behavior, because of the imaginary "cap" on initial cost of playing.

I once sat down and added up everything that he's lost just on this game, and I came up with at very least a new co-op near where I live. Like any compulsive gambler, my friend is convinced that he about to turn Some Kind of Corner and be the guy at the final table on a TV tournament. He thinks that coming in 300th in a thousand-person professional tournament means he's "getting close." He thinks that he can be like the bevy of college kids that they show on TV--the new equivalent of bubblegum pop or amateur porn--the latest fresh face of the week--and be the Hot New Up and Coming Talent.

Nothing I say will ever change this guy. The next major social event that he misses, though, he gets an ultimatum--get counselling or loose my phone number. Internet poker has become this guy's life. This past week, he took me out to a "I'm sorry I fucked up" dinner...and kept one eye on his watch. When I asked him what was up, he admitted that (now get this) his poker coach had a date but also had a seat in an online tournament, so he had agreed to play for him. I was too tired after work to call him on his BS. Of course, he got knocked out of the tourney in the first few rounds--like every other time he's cut out on something to go play.

He never sees the value of the winnings that he's pissed away, and I am willing to bet that he never even keeps track of how much he really does spend on "play fees" for the pay-to-play tournies. It's not like this guy is rolling in dough--he's out of work, and despite getting a very high hourly on his temping, he also lives in a very luxe apartment building in a very very expensive share situation. But, he's convinced that one day--if he just keeps playing--he can stop looking for a job and play cards all day.

Just like every other schmuck he's playing against.

posted by Steve @ 3:10:00 PM

3:10:00 PM

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