Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Three of a Kind Beats a Flush, Right?

One of the reasons I've been absent from the tables of late is that I've been writing a lot of freelance poker content for Ongame, which offers a variety of fine poker sites, the most prominent of which is PokerRoom.

It's been pretty simply stuff so far, mainly geared towards beginners and for publication in assorted mainstream media outlets like magazines and newspapers. Short, sweet, and to the point. (Stop snickering. Seriously. I can be short and sweet, if need be, and am not always bloviating endlessly, ad nauseam.)

Aside from the extra cash, it's been a nice change of pace. It also feels good to write about something I know, something that I'm relatively good at. Everything I write for the day job is completely and utterly uninteresting, closely akin to pulling teeth, so it's been cool to write something that doesn't immediately make my eyes glaze over from boredom, even as I type.

At the same time, I've been feeling strangely conflicted, as I've been putting together assorted articles designed to not only introduce people to poker, but to prep them for the sweet, sweet rush when the poker crack hits their bloodstream.

The interesting thing is that much of what I've written so far originates from a cautionary sort of place. An article about good bankroll management is spawned by so many stories of people going bust, playing over their roll. Advice to not play angry stems from my own poor play when the monkey rage overcomes me and I want to throw feces around. Cautioning people to moderate their playing time and to not ignore family and friends comes very naturally, having done that myself.

Or, more simply, if a good friend came to me and said that they needed a new hobby, I'm not sure I'd necessarily recommend poker. As far as advising complete strangers, sure, knock yourself out, it's a great game. But if a good friend asked me, hanging on my answer, I'm not sure that it would be yes, take up poker. Blasphemy, I know, but there you go.

From a sheer numbers perspective, only 10-15% of the people who play are net winning players. So your friend is likely doomed to lose money if they take up poker. Likely not tons of money, but the odds are not good that they'll be a winning player.

If they're married or in a serious relationship, odds are that at some point or other, to greater or lesser degrees, their poker playing time will be an issue with their husband or wife. So by encouraging them to play poker, you're basically tucking a time-delayed relationship explosive in their pocket. Not guaranteed to be a lethal or even dangerous explosion, but it'll go off, at some point in time.

Playing poker well consumes a massive amount of time. It just does. Most people don't have enough excess free time to take up playing poker without sacrificing in other areas. Most people who catch the poker bug end up spending inordinate amounts of time indoors, hunched over the computer, instead of any number of activities they used to pursue.

On the bright side, poker is an awesome, awesome game, which can be tons of fun if you can manage all the pitfalls. So you could very well be introducing them to a hobby that will bring joy and satisfaction for many years to come.

More and more, my hesitation stems from the fact that it's a rare, rare monkey that can balance all of the above issues and emerge happy and unscathed. Not impossible, by any stretch of the imagination, but a longer shot than I'd like to bet on, if I were put on the spot and forced to encourage or discourage someone to play poker.

Does that mean I have to turn in my poker blogger card now? Doh...


Fat Dan said...

You don't have to turn in your card, but you must delete this post. I don't want any would be losers reading it and not playing. That would be horrible.

Joe said...

Hobbies are expensive. Poker just happens to be one that MIGHT make you money. It does indeed take alot of time, but so does underwater basket weaving. And underwater basket weaving is expensive! You gotta buy a wetsuit, rent scuba gear, and wicker to make the damn thing with. It's total -EV considering baskets only go for about $5 on the open market.
Encourage your buddy to play! $5+.5 s-n-g's are cheaper than stamp collecting!

BTW, I dig the bog. Good reading. Keep it up.

cc said...

I think you're overthinking this hand--just jam the pot and see what happens. Please ensure that your writing is targeted at a high demographic, sprinkling in references to yachting, polo, and Yale so as to get high-income earners with large amounts of disposable income started playing poker. Make sure they understand that one should lose $5k-8k in the first few months, that this is fairly normal and typical for new players. Then make sure you and I are IM'd whenever they sit at a table so that we can help them in their journey.

FatBaldGuy said...

It's hell having a conscience, huh? I mean, I wouldn't know, but it sounds bad.

Mark said...

I think it's good and ethical to discourage friends from playing. They already know the potential rewards; they're less likely to know about the committment and risk.
Also, if they want to play, many of them will play regardless of what you tell them.

JamesChanga said...

Always like reading you, my favorite poker blogger by far. I think 10-15% winning players is a low estimate.

I like the cautious note, because so much of poker writing is about winning, about online legends winning millions, etc.

Still, poker is a beautiful game. Probably a better game for a young single person, granted. I would still recommend poker to a non-playing friend.

Jestocost said...

As a Ongame flack, can you give us the skinny on the upcoming Poker Classic? I plan to qualify by working my way up through the $1 SNGs.