This 4th of July be proud you're an American Poker Player. After all, we invented the game. Poker is more American than baseball or apple pie. Poker developed with the new nation and is a part of our heritage and culture. As such, it reflects much of the American character and personality.
There may be a $25,000 heads up challenge in Vegas for the elite, or the lure of another rematch between Andy Beal and "The Firm". But the World Heads Up Championship, a €2,000 no limit hold'em affair sponsored this year by PartyPoker. com, takes place in Barcelona (and formerly Vienna) as all European circuit players know, and over the years has played host to many of the biggest American names as well as all of the European ones.
Reading Nick Christenson's review of the new DVD, Texas Hold'em: The Winning Strategy with Mike Caro (Poker Player, June 13, 2005), caused me to contemplate that question. Since I have been teaching poker classes at a senior citizens center for three semesters, I now have a basis for addressing that question.
I wrote a column the other day about how to win when you are playing poker, and I gave you folks a couple of winning poker tips.
Tip No. 1: Observe and study the poker game that you are planning to play that day.
Tip No. 2: Rate the poker players that you will be playing with that day.
Folks, I want to tell you that I am writing a new book that I think I will call, "Sixty-five ways to improve your life and your poker game." I have decided that I will not re-invent the wheel on winning tips for poker players.
When John Wayne died June 11th, 1979, the Tokyo newspaper headline proclaimed, "Mr. America passes on". Ronald Reagan said of his friend, "He gave the whole world the image of what an American should be."
From a B-movie actor, he grew to become an American legend and cultural icon. In his movies and in his heart, John Wayne represented, reflected and rejoiced in the spirit and values of America.
You remember the old gangster movies- where the lead mug would threaten to throw the hero into the river with cement shoes? As a kid, in love with these old flicks, I used to imagine what that would be like - sinking fast in a body of water with "concrete galoshes". It's the feeling I still get sometimes at the poker table when the game is weighed down with rocks - the living and breathing kind. I had such an experience in Las Vegas on Memorial Day weekend.
In the natural ebb and flow of tournament poker, you routinely see a tightening of play as people get within shouting distance of the money. Those with short stacks cast nervous eyes about, looking for other short stacks and measuring the distance of approaching blinds. "Can I make it?" players wonder. "Can I make it to the money without taking a chance, or must my money move in order for me to cash?" These players are looking for an excuse not to play. They're looking to make good laydowns.
Since profit is the main motivating force for most serious poker players, today let's discuss where that profit comes from. It's obvious that it needs to come from your opponents. Forgetting for a moment the rake, poker is a zero sum game. What you win is what your opponents lose. We've all heard the old adage that most of your profit comes not from the brilliance of your own play but from the mistakes made by your opponents.
It was a genuine eyeopener Ted Forrest remembers, discovering there were people who - get this now - actually made a living playing poker.
This was before he hit Las Vegas for the first time, maybe 16 years ago, back before he joined the fraternity of people who support themselves, and quite nicely, thank you, with hours spent at poker tables.
"I had made, ooooh, small change in college playing poker and then I come to Las Vegas and find out there are people doing this for a living. It was, like unbelievable."
If you know how to read, you won't have many surprises. This is true in life as well as at the poker table. I was recently working with a 15-year-old young man and his family. He was getting into trouble daily at home, but not at school. It was obvious that he was setting himself up to be "kicked." He was genuinely surprised when they got upset with him. The social skills he lacked at home were his not knowing how to read his parents and how to "grease the wheels." When he would say "No," he'd be sarcastic or do it in front of his parents' friends.