Sunday, December 21, 2008

Deal Me In?

Once again I have a friend trying to talk me into playing poker. So far I have managed to side-step the trendy phase of its resurgence, despite several folks making every effort to let me know what I am missing out on. For some reason people think that I would enjoy taking up the game. They know that I have an interest in psychology, and emphasize the importance of that facet of poker. I expect that these would-be enablers have only the best intentions at heart. Certainly they aren't just trying to recruit fresh meat for the table, right? It's merely an opportunity for me to exercise a specific part of my personality, and a localized region of my brain. Somehow I would be ensured of fun and amusement.

For every compelling reason I am given for participating, I can almost instantly generate a handful of objections. The most generalized excuse I have for foregoing engagement is philosophically-based. When I was a boy, I learned quickly that gambling was a black hole. A couple of my buddies conspired with me to start a football betting pool in middle school. We decided that we could capitalize on our classmates' prurient tendencies, and make a buck or two for soda and comics. The first week we had a lot of participants. It seemed odd that one of our accomplices had so much foresight into what would happen on the gridiron. It was even stranger that one of us came out on top seven days later. What prognostication skills my small social circle had!

You see, we had figured out that the best role to play was the "house". Unfortunately we got greedy too quickly, because if we had more moderation we would have probably been taken care of for months. Anyway, I made a decision after the others started to suspect a fix- I wasn't going to be the sucker. This naturally jigsawed with another objection I had to another honored American past-time... playing cards. As the youngest member of my family I didn't have a chance of success when the deck came out. It was frustrating that the only way I could do well was when someone started patronizing me. I spent a lot of time sitting out, and rolling Yahtzee by myself. It's not like I didn't understand the odds.

As I got older it was easy to avoid gambling because neither my friends nor I ever had any money to throw around. It wasn't an option. Any discretionary income went to beer and cigarettes. The high stake gambles had more to do with whoever you were trying to get into bed. Still I occasionally felt the pull to go to the track. There was something about the horses that tempted me. Perhaps it was something sociological... I was captivated by the milieu. And I felt like I could come out even by simply betting the minimum to show. I could suck up the atmosphere without getting caught in the loop. And for years, there was no pressure to involve myself in any other games of chance.

Now we have high stakes poker on television. You have to make it a point to remain untouched by the craze. If you decide not to get in on it, you risk giving something up socially. I understand that. My grandfather always warned me that a day would come when I would regret not learning how to play cards. I thought he was daft, but he was really quite prescient. Maybe I'll succumb to the gentle urgings of my pals. But I'd be starting at a distinct advantage, and at the mercy of the early adopters. That's something I'd have a hard time dealing with for awhile. There's an ugly side of me that finds losing completely unacceptable under any conditions. Who wants to encourage that?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like playing cards. I've played canasta, hearts, gin rummy, been and I play pinochle in a group for a few bucks a night. Though our neighborhood has a bi-weekly money game, the one game I haven't played is poker. Th reason: although I'm pretty good with odds and money-management (I do OK with blackjack), I've always felt I'd be starting in the hole; that is, the other players would have had experience, and I'd would not. That alone is enough to keep me on the sidelines...well, being pretty conservative monetarily probably has some influence.

So, good luck if you do, good for you if you don't.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

See... I don't know what luck has to do with it. I mean specifically that I can't properly assess its role in the activity in question.

5:03 PM  

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