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Life in the Poker Lane

More about life around poker, with some poker thrown in.
By: bgalon
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A couple of year ago they built an extreme sport centre in my town. It has a skate park, caving, high rope walk, bouldering section and 60 meters of climbing walls – from beginners (4 meters high) to experts (14 meters high). When it opened Jack got all crazy with excitement and invited us all for a climbing session: Me with my kids, Paul with his, Jack himself and Steve.

The thing is – I’m not very good with heights. They make me very nervous. Even if you never seen me and Jack in person, you will find it very easy to recognise us when you walk into the climbing section. Jack on the absolute left, expert walls – at the top already, leapfrogging back down the wall doing kamikaze screams and wolf whistles. Me, all the way to the right, a short 4 meter beginner’s wall with big holes for the feet and big plastic grips for the hands – clinging to them with white knuckles for dear life.

- “Sir?” I heard a small voice somewhere below me.

I opened my eyes, turned my head slowly and looked down, my head dizzy from the height and my fingers clinching even tighter into the plastic grips. Below me stood a boy of about 8 years old, eating an ice cream cone. He obviously ignored the “no food in the climbing area” sign that was hanging above the entrance door.

- “Yes?” I answered/asked politely with a shaky voice.
- “What are you doing?”
- “I’m climbing” I said “Isn’t that obvious?”
- “Well” said the boy, licking his ice cream cone, “I don’t think you are supposed to climb with your eyes closed.”
- “I’m trying to concentrate” I explained. “I’m imagining the task again, and concentrating helps me not to fall. I wouldn’t like to fall you see.”
- “But you only 8 inches (20 centimetres) above the ground” he pointed.

Paul was standing not far behind the boy, trying hard not to laugh, and my kids were shuffling slowly to the farthest part of the room, away from me. They were worried that someone would make the embarrassing connection and realise I’m their father. Kids can be brutally honest. Then again, this was an eight years old boy, so what did he understand about heights? No way was it only 20 centimetres above the floor. It felt at least like 40 centimetres. I told him off to the facility staff for eating ice cream inside the hall and they removed him from the room. That will teach the little horror to mess with someone his own size.

When talking to Jack later on about it, he said that like anything else that scares you, you start small and take on the next challenge, and before you know it – you will start seeing the fun side of it:

- “After all” he reasoned “you did make it up the beginner’s wall at the end. Just take a small step at the time, tell yourself you can do it, and in no time you will climb those really high walls”
- “Oh!” I said excitedly “just like when you move up buy-ins levels in poker!”
- He looked totally disgusted – “Wall climbing is nothing like poker.”
- “I Agree!” Steve chipped in – “poker is more like caving. You are in the dark until the river hits and you both need to show your cards.”
- “Caving is nothing like poker” jack slithered, his mood darkening.
- “He is probably right” joined Paul “it’s more like skateboarding, you can roll and you duck, and you go ‘quack! quack!’ but at the end, when you reach the top of the ramp, you need to decide if you are fully committed to the next trick or you just going to fold”
- “IT’S NOTHING LIKE SCATEBOARDING!” screamed Jack “OR CAVING, OR WALL CLIMBING!!!! THERE IS NO SKILL INVOLVED! IT’S JUST BLOODY LUCK!”

The whole centre fell quite. They were all looking at Jack with somewhat concern looks.

- “I think poker is like eating ice cream” said a little voice behind us. We turned around to face the same 8 years old, still licking his ice cream cone.

- “And why is that?” Paul asked him in a friendly fatherly voice.
- “Well, I don’t know poker, but my daddy plays it on the internet. I think mummy is not too happy about it, but he seems to enjoy it. Just like eating ice cream – it’s enjoyable.”

We were speechless. If you knew our little group you would know that we are usually very talkative. Being speechless is kind of a new concept.

------

Those of you, who follow my blog, know I am not a prolific writer. My previous entry is almost a year and a half old and only god knows when my next one will be.

The main reason for my infrequent blogging is that my heart needs to be in it. Plenty of other players write about their interesting hands weekly, and produce pages of information on regular bases. While those might be of value, I prefer the items that put a smile on my face – where it is clear that the writer had fun writing them.

This is also the way it works for me as a writer: by enjoying my writing, I have a better chance of the reader enjoying it too. For me writing: whether a novel, a short story, an article, a dairy entry or a blog - needs to be fun, or it’s forced and not very interesting.

These brings us to the main point of the blog – if you are not enjoying it, then you probably should not be doing it – or at least take a break away from it. It’s true to poker as it is true to writing.

Last year I just did not enjoy my poker. The 45-men “fun grind” became just “a grind”. So I thought variety will help – and to fit it with my busy life, I chose games with smaller number of players: 18-men, in which I done okay but I thought was too quick, and 6-men, which become push or fold in minutes and qualified more as ICM knowledge type game then “proper poker”.

So, after a year of trying, and not enjoying, other games – I came back to 45-men, and suddenly I enjoyed it again. It’s was like an old friend that you used to talk to every day, and then did not see for a whole year – you have new experiences and you tried other things, so there is so much catching up to do. And what is even more enjoyable is that I discovered that those hours trying other games, helped my 45-men experience immensely. Suddenly, when I reach those two final tables, I feel comfortable with my choices and not afraid to ask questions from the other players in the pot.

I guess it is fair to say that we do something better when we are having fun while doing it – but at the same time should accept that even the “not-fun” things we do: our duties and bad choices – give us experience that make us better as a whole.

So, if you find yourself in a rout, the cards seem to be always against you and you just don’t want to fire up your poker software: take a break, try something different and take as long as you need. At some point, you will come back a better player. You will find it fun and enjoyable. Dare I say – it will be a bit like eating an ice cream cone.

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