Monday, July 14, 2008

I’ve been playing poker for about two and a half years. That’s if you don’t count my teen years, an eternity ago. We played for pennies at the lousy excuse for a teen center in the small town I lived in. I wasn’t playing with teens though. They were older guys, tattooed motorheads who snuck in malt liquor and shared liberally. They were okay. I was okay. For the most part. One did try to beat me up months later after I confessed that I had finger-fucked a friend of his. It was my first time. I had to tell somebody. He was drunk. I would have pummeled him. I forgive him.

I played a bit in the Navy too. I took friends money, record collections, anything they were willing to part with. Some of these people didn’t want to be friends anymore. A valuable poker lesson.

Then there was a thirty-year hiatus. Then like millions of other schmoes I started watching poker on TV, religiously. “bastin really enjoys watching poker. Maybe something poker-related.” That’s what my wife said to her mother when asked what I might want for my birthday. I was given T.J. Cloutier’s World Class Poker software. I couldn’t stop playing. Maybe because I couldn’t stop winning. I played eight hours a day. I dreamed poker. My brain chemistry altered. Junkified!

“bastin really likes the software you got him. I’m going to see what else is available out there for his Christmas present.” I unwrapped two new software program. One appeared to be more of the same, including blackjack. The other, Poker Academy, had an online component where you could play No Limit Hold ‘Em against other people who had the software. A community of poker enthusiasts! I upped my dosage.

I got my ass handed to me. At least at first. Playing people was considerably harder than playing against a software. I couldn’t read the board for shit. I had no clue why one person would play the hand they had the way they did. Still, slowly but surely I started to get the hang of it. After about 50,000 hands things started to click. And it wasn’t long after that I was the number one player on the site, and held that rank for about six months or more.

Now, I’m number four. Two Frenchies and an Aussie are ahead of me. The Aussie has been playing for most of his life. The French guys have been playing about as long as I have. And they generally play against other French players whom, I have come to understand, have a name for calling an all-in with a gutshot. They call it “courage.”

Now I sound like I’m making excuses for no longer being the top player. I suffer no illusions. I am an adequate player. I must have had one helluva good run early on when the competition hadn’t yet caught up on the learning curve. Something like that. Since then, I just grind, pick off the newbies when they play above their bankroll, lose whole stacks to suckouts, and occasionally just get out-played.

There came the day when I wanted to see if I could matriculate from the Academy to pub tourneys, the local casino and a home game. Several of the posts that follow this one have been taken from earlier postings I made on the Poker Academy Forum. By and large they don’t tell a happy story. However, they do offer lessons for myself and other newer players. Enjoy.

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