(Distributed Feb. 14, 2006)
ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU PLAY
So you want to be a famous poker player, play against the best in the world on television and win a lot of money? Well, my friend, join the crowd.
Poker — especially the game of Texas hold ‘em — has exploded in popularity. From home games to brick-and-mortar card rooms to online action, there’s no end in sight to the growth phenomenon. Already, it’s estimated there are more than 50 million players in the United States alone!
Regular visitors to poker rooms across the nation know this all too well. Their familiar games, against opponents they know by name, have changed dramatically. New players with unknown skills and surprising betting tendencies are leaving many regulars scratching their heads. The waiting lists for games are longer than ever.
For players, though, this is almost all good. You get to meet and often make friends with lots of new people, you have more choices of games, and if you’re a decent player, you stand to win more money!
So, how should you take advantage of this much action?
First, realize what type of player you are now, then decide if you want to stay at that level or climb the ladder. Those levels start with the recreational player, then move up to serious, advanced and, finally, the professional.
Next, decide how much money you can afford to risk. If the answer is zero, then just play for fun. Making a living playing poker isn’t a realistic goal, so you need to honestly assess the best poker level within your financial comfort zone.
Most people play poker for fun. Whether it’s in a home game with relatives and neighbors or at a casino with a mix of regulars and friendly strangers, most players are there to have a good time and maybe win a little money. If that’s you, and you don’t want to change, that’s cool.
If your primary goal upon entering a poker room is to enjoy yourself, whenever possible you should look for a game where the players seem to be doing just that. If you’re on a waiting list, use that time to walk slowly past the tables where your favorite game is being spread and try to get a feel for what’s going on. If you see players chatting happily, telling jokes, shrugging their shoulders when they lose, congratulating the winner of a hand — that’s likely a good game for you.
The other night in my home card room on a Mississippi River casino boat, for example, a young man named Jeff filled an empty seat in our $3-$6 hold ‘em game and announced, “This is my first time playing in a live game instead of online, so I may need help.” The dealer and two players close to him said, “No problem.”
Had this been a tough game filled with serious or advanced players, “no problem” would have been code for, “OK, sucker, fasten your seatbelt because we’re gonna win all of your chips.” But this was a fun and lively game, so someone teased him by saying, “Hey, don’t worry, just keep hitting the call button and you’ll be fine.”
Everyone at the table laughed, and Jeff relaxed. Before long, he got into the flow of the game. His table manners were fine — he acted in turn, didn’t splash the pot, etc. — and soon he was mixing it up with raises and one or two bluffs of his own. In the end, he lost a rack of white chips ($100) in the game, but had a good time and most certainly will try live poker again.
So will many more like him.
Was it just me, or did it seem that the eight big-name players in NBC’s “Poker Superstars Championship” all had sourpuss stew for lunch that day? Even Scotty Nguyen’s usual flair was missing.
Televised poker opposite the pre-game Super Bowl hype is a great idea. But you’d think that the elite players, with a clear shot at $500,000, at least could have ACTED like they were having fun!
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read past LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2006 RUSS SCOTT
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.