Today's poker wisdom comes from the unlikeliest of sources: a book on playing slot machines. The book doesn't pretend it can make you a slot winner-an idea as nonsensical as counting on Brownian motion to hold you up if you jump off a building. It does, though, have an intelligent word or two to say about game selection and goals. If your goal is a good, long session, says the book, then find a machine offering a high frequency of small payouts. If you're a go-for-the-gold type, track down a slot paying out larger jackpots less frequently- and count on pumping in a lot of dough before your ship comes in (uhm, if ever). I'd be the last person to tell you to waste your money on slots (though I've been known to throw a rash quarter or two at the pull toys in my time) but I do encourage you to borrow this consideration of game selection and goals next time you go online or go to your local club or favorite website to play poker. Really, if you think about it, it works the same way.
If you're in the mood for a nice, long session without a lot of downside, you'll seek a ten-handed game, spread at a limit you're very comfortable with, and populated, ideally, with Timid Timmies and Cally Wallies. If you're in a gambling frame of mind, you'll seek a short-handed contest where the nimrods and maniacs are betting it up. In the former game, you'll probably book neither a big win nor a large loss, but you'll get the maximum minutes of play for your poker dime. Go the latter route and you could score big-or get torched big- in a fraction of the time.
Many players don't stop to consider their goals. They just jump into the first game that's available. Know what? I count myself in their number, at least when it comes to online games. I have always looked for the shortest-handed game I can find- one-on-one is best-but never stopped to ponder why. Thanks to this book on slots, though, I have taken a moment to ponder my motivation, and here's what I've discovered:
It's all about me.
I play short-handed because I get to do more. If I'm playing heads up, I absolutely get to control the action. Don't like my cards? I fold 'em, and we're on to the next hand where, once again, I am involved. Feel like being a bully? There's only one foe out there to counter me, and often he'll let me control the style and tempo of the game absolutely. I could cloak this atavistic urge in the rationalization that shorthanded play gives me fewer foes to solve and minimizes the cumulative effect of my opponents' luck. I could make that claim but all it would be is what it is: a cheap excuse for doing exactly what I want-exactly as a slot player picks a certain machine because it "looks lucky," or gives off some special vibe. Poker teaches us to be honest with ourselves, first, foremost and always.
So while there's more that I could say on this subject, I must quit now, because a one-on-one table just opened up and, while I might counsel you to be thoughtful about your goals whenever you play poker, I gotta say that in the end you're on your own, pal, 'cause in the end it's all about me.