Playing poker

When I was a kid, I played poker — not frequently certainly, but I learned 5 card and 7 card stud… and wasn't necessarily very good at it. I never played for money, though playing for plastic chips or edibles each made for fun experiences. I mean sure I played cards: Crib and Oh Hell among other games (Gin Rummy, Hearts and other games were all also a lot of fun! Depending on my age, I think I also liked Go Fish and Old Maid.), and was rather successful at those games on occasion. Even as an adult I occasionally play what we call Oh Hell for quarters with relatives (my uncle and aunt usually) — it's a lot of game play for token buy-in.

As an adult I've played and usually lost poker at fun casino events. Playing against a dealer rather than playing tournament play is a really different experience. I know much better than to play in an actual casino for real money, because at such a venue, you're generally playing to lose. But I've had enough experiences at fun casino style events to understand some of the rules.

The first time I ever played Texas Hold 'Em poker was many years ago (2006 perhaps? I'm uncertain) at a CKI LSSP in the USA. There were over 80 participants and about half of us were beginners. There was buy in nor was there a cash prize though those who made it to the final table would each have the opportunity to throw a pie at someone, which seemed like a really fun/interesting thing to do! I guess I had SOME of an advantage having familiarity with playing card games and with having played 5 card stud before… but I was pretty nervous and needed an instruction sheet beside me for the game. Regardless, I made it to the final table of 8 players and while I placed 8th overall, I got to pie someone which was pretty neat!

Since then, I've occasionally played poker in video games: recently mostly in the form of Poker Night at the Inventory — which I rather like (as much as I find much of the banter to be repetitive, frustrating and occasionally misogynist — the game assumes that women aren't playing it, but I find the gameplay pretty engaging and fun — I wish I could turn off the banter somewhat). I think I much prefer tournament style poker games to casino style ones.

And so last night I played poker with Jon at BioWare for the first time. This was my first experience with this type of tournament play. I really liked it. I found it challenging but felt like I could keep up and the buy in was affordable (I got 4ish hours of enjoyment from my $20 which seems like the right price point for me). Sure I made some bad choices on occasion, but I lasted a rather good amount of time — just past the second break in our play. I won some, I lost some. I think I have a better understanding of the game now. I mean I'm still a bit rusty on what hands beat what on occasion… and our particular table had a LOT of tied hands… and I was rather lucky (twice I had two aces dealt to me which seems rather unusual to me). But I enjoyed myself which was good. I like to think that when I return to this group to play poker once more I will continue to have a good time. Having a good time strikes me as a whole lot more important than winning.

The way that I enjoyed last night playing poker is similar to the reason I seek out board game tournaments the way that I do: I enjoy the gameplay, the people, and the overall experience. Games get competitive, sure but not nastily so on the whole (yes I've been to some board game tournaments where I've felt very much beat up upon and very much like I'm not enjoying myself, but fortunately those have been the exception rather than the norm). I've always thought that I've not been good at poker, but I think that with a bit more practice (and I guess some familiarity with the players), I might be able to play even better than I have. I thank Jon for inviting me as it made for a fun evening!