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October 16, 2004

Ship of Fools

As some of you know, I have a regular poker night with a bunch of friends. We play for relatively low stakes, and it's a fun little thing that has introduced me to more people and has helped develop my skills.

Lately, I've become a little more serious about poker, because as many of you also know, I don't really ever get into anything half-assed... when I start really developing an interest in something, it's pretty hardcore. There are many nuances of poker that I enjoy. There is the statistics part, which appeals to the geek in me. I've gotten pretty good at calculating pot odds, etc. on the fly. There's human aspect, which is a lot of fun. I mean, there's nothing like using what you think you think your opponent thinks you think you know to play out a hand. Actually, one of the things I've really liked about our format is that we play a limit ring game first followed by a no-limit mini-tourney. It's usually an all-night thing, and the ring game is very useful in determining the habits and style of new players.

Anyway, all this is great and wonderful, and I attribute my relative success in the low-limit ring games I played in Vegas to strategy practiced at my home game. So why is this entry called "Ship of Fools?"

Well, because as much fun as it is playing every week with friends in a relatively riskless environment (seriously, we play for chump change), I sometimes get frustrated with the level of play at our table. It's the same situation that I find myself in with just about any sport that I pick up seriously. At some point, I get into it more hardcore than the people I got into it with, and something has to happen at that point or else I lose my sanity, or end up pissing someone off.

There was a relatively new guy at the table yesterday, someone who'd only played with us once before. He kept making newbie mistakes during the ring game like improperly betting, betting out of turn, etc. At one point, he even thought he had cards that he didn't have, raising at some point that caused me to go out when I would have stayed in had he simply called (or folded, like he should have if he'd known what he had and known the odds against him). He didn't end up winning the hand, someone else did... but I would have had them both.

Okay, you're saying, no big deal... take a friggin' chill pill, right? Just treat it as though he was trying to bluff, and take his admission of the mistake as a good faith gesture. Yeah, you're right, it's just a friendly and there's no point getting all pissed about something just because the other people there don't take it as seriously as you do.

Well, later on, in the no-limit game, we were down to three (out of only five last night) with the top two in the money. I had pocket 10's, and the board was something like 2,4,7,9 rainbow. I went all in after I think a modest bet on the flop, or maybe a check. Anyway, I get called (not by the same guy, thank God, since I probably would have lost my cool completely if it was), so I'm really curious what he's got. Turns out... NOTHING! He's got Qx (I don't even remember what his other card was... it was a low card that didn't pair up with anything on the board). So he had NOTHING. Not even a straight or flush draw. ZILCH. That means 3 cards out of 46 unknowns can help him, so if you were watching this on ESPN, I'd have a 93% next to my name and he'd have a 7%. Bad beats are bad beats, of course, you know where this story is going...

But the point isn't that I feel shafted or whatever by a bad beat. It's that this late in a tournament, one place out of the money (he would have been severely crippled had he lost) he was just plain RECKLESS. That is just fucking dumb, and the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get.

I mean, there's a pretty simple explanation, right? He's just playing for the fun of it and doesn't care about the statistics, or the strategy, as much as I do. It's the same situation I'm facing at this open gym I go to for volleyball. There are people there who are semi-serious about the thing like myself and want to improve, etc. And then there are just people who are there because they wanted something to do that night and they aren't that good and don't really care that much about getting better.

So something needs to happen or else things are going to come to a head at some point. I already know the inevitable:

I either have to "de-hardcore" myself, at least for the friendly home game, or I have to kick poker up a notch. Or both, if I can play it right.

Basically, I will just have to accept the friendly game as just hanging out with the guys and not any kind of serious play. If I don't, things could get ugly. But in order to keep up my interest in the game, I will have to find a good alternative to hone my skills when I want to be serious about getting better and playing good poker. And in the meantime, just keep telling myself that in the long run, if I keep developing the skills and playing the odds, I'm supposed to come out ahead. I just have to keep my cool in the short term when shit like last night happens.

Sheesh. It seems pretty petty I suppose; I don't really feel entirely comfortable blogging about this to be honest, but whatever. As I've always said, in gambling, it's better to be lucky than good, and so even though I'm cursing him for his stupidity, my hat goes off to him because he's got lady luck on his arm.

PGP Signed Entry

October 7, 2004

Holy Matrimony and all that nonesuch...

Tomorrow night, I fly out for the wedding of one of my closest friends. As I reported here, we did the bachelor party in Vegas last month, and actually the past couple of weeks have been a string of celebratory dinners, all-night drinkfests, late-night musings, poker nights, drives, and all the other stuff that he seems to think we'll still do when he gets back from the honeymoon but everyone else knows we won't.

I mean, we approached the whole with a sense of finality that I can't really describe. I think it must be like sending someone off to war... you celebrate as though it *might* be the last time, but you hope it won't.

Sentimental waxing aside, I don't really know what to expect emotionally when I show up at the wedding itself. I'm a groomsman (I've stood in the parties of four weddings now, none as the best man, which also kind of makes me feel like I've been a pretty close friend and confidant over the years, but not quite that close) so I imagine I'll have some duties that will keep me appropriately occupied such that I won't have a chance to really take it all in until after the dust has settled.

Anyhow, the entire concept of marriage befuddles me. I know I don't respect the institution as much as I did growing up, especially in light of the national disucssion on gay marriage and civil unions. It seems so artificial a social/political/religious construct placed upon the most natural and innocent of unions. Marriage, if it is all of those things that society has burdened it with, has no place in my worldview, despite my respect for the eternal underlying spiritual concept. I think this stance could be generalized to encompass my view on religion in general, but that is a whole other topic entirely.

PGP Signed Entry