Poker can be an addiction - or a character builder
I'm over 60 years old. Three years ago when I walked into a local
poker room, I knew most of the players. Their average age was
probably fortysomething and three or four kinds of poker were being
played throughout the room.
Today when I walk into the room I don't recognize anybody. Most of
the faces are younger than my own kids and only one game is usually
being played - Texas Hold'em.
I'm mentioning this because of a recent feature article in this
newspaper about young people who have become harmfully addicted to
poker. Thanks to the immense popularity of Texas Hold'em on TV,
poker has become the latest overindulgence craze, sometimes
outranking booze or pot smoking among the younger set.
Poker addiction starts out very subtly. You see somebody on TV going
"all in" on a bluff with a worthless hand, and his opponent
eventually folds, giving the bluffer a big pot. It looks very cool -
like something you'd like to try.
So you get together with some friends and play a little no limit
Texas Hold'em - just like on TV. It gives you a rush and you want to
play it again - only next time for more money. Pretty soon you're
playing all the time, and not for the purpose of learning how to win
- but just for the thrill of the gamble!
All the wrong reasons: Well, the same tendencies that can get you
addicted to drugs and alcohol have gotten you hooked on poker. The
right reason to take up poker is to learn how to win at it - not to
experience the thrill of playing. These two reasons require vastly
different playing styles.
Oh, there is a side benefit to playing poker the right way, but it's
not the thrill of the gamble. It's the development of your
You see, to win at poker you must use extreme self-discipline.
Rationalization is your most dangerous weakness. You must remain
objective enough to see what is, not what you want to be - and then
act on it accordingly.
You know what that means? It means you must throw away 75 percent of
your hands without even calling that first bet. And as for the other
25 percent that you call the first bet with - you'll fold more than
half of those before the hand is over. After all is said and done,
you'll play maybe one hand out of 10 to the showdown. There's not
much of a gambling thrill in that. But if you want to win - even
survive - that's what you've got to do.
I'd like to give the following stern piece of advice to all the new
poker players out there. If saying "no" to yourself three times out
of four isn't your cup of tea, then poker is not going to be your
friend. You'd be better off having a beer or two. But if you've got
the patience to sift through all the garbage while waiting for a
good hand, then can exercise the self-discipline to throw that good
hand away when your clear vision says you've been beat, poker can be
a satisfying and rewarding character builder.
All good poker players have this quality. Most weren't born with it
- they developed it. They learned how to tell themselves the truth,
even when the truth was disappointing - and they can use that virtue
to their advantage in all aspects of their lives.
I read my first poker book almost 30 years ago, "Poker, A Guaranteed
Income" by Frank Wallace. It contained a one-page epilogue that I
believe described true poker most eloquently. I'll summarize that
inspiring epilogue here:
"Poker is a character catalyst that forces players to reality. Those
who evade thinking cannot escape the penalties. The winning poker
player views all situations realistically. He pits the use of his
mind against the unwillingness of his opponents to think. The loser
makes himself a loser. The winner makes himself a winner. Poker is
Takes More than Luck to Win
Strategy, observation, cleverness, memory, tactics and acting are
all the unique demands of poker, and Americans seem to be in high
pursuit of these talents.
Texas Holdem Strategy - Betting Is Communicating
We humans are very perceptive creatures. We are able to communicate in many different ways with one another. By saying something, by saying nothing, by shrugging our shoulders, by winking, delaying, etc. These are all forms of communicating.
Online Poker Cheating Could Cost You
While it may be challenging to directly cheat the online poker rooms
themselves, it's less challenging to cheat the other players
individually. And not everything is actually "cheating" either.