Thursday, November 18, 2004

Poker and Art

It's interesting, nights like these. It's very easy to make assumptions about what poker is, what gambling is, what games of skill/chance are. And yes, all of that is very true, the impulse is very well-intentioned, the final conclusion is very well-defined.

But it isn't really any of that. The joy of it comes from somewhere else. There's an innate pleasure in creating order from disorder that permeates any game. Chance or skill, doesn't matter. You establish a set of rules and you play by them. There are better decisions and worse decisions. If you apprehend enough about the game, you appreciate the nuances. If you don't, you don't. Unlike so many things in life the end result is very cut and dried. It's there or it isn't. End of story.

And what does this have to do with anything? Not much. I'm having one of those strange nights of poker where you can seemingly win at will, forcing good flops to lie down with you via sheer dint of mental energy, picking off bluffs at will, bluffing at will. Cards falling into place, almost despite myself.

And the end result? Not to completely call my uber dork side out, but it reminds me very much of playing chess. I was a freakishly good chess player as a kid, and so much of my success wasn't due to some mind-bending insight but more to the ability to apprehend the position and make the absolute best move. Over and over and over. Until you grind the person across the table into dust.

And that's where poker is right now. And honestly, that's where I think I can keep poker. At a certain point the cards start meaning less than position on the table and sheer, inescapable will to have the pot pushed over to you. And that's the real batttle, I think, and the real test. Reaching the point where the cards themselves are next to meaningless, and you're simply processing odds and expectations and acting in accordance, to maximize the chips that end up in front of you.

You won't always catch cards. But you can always like you just did, and exert the maximum pressure on weaker souls to acknowledge it. Then when you do have an actual hand it's just gravy. That's the big epiphany. Right there.

No comments: