What Is The Point?
"Why do you even play this game?"
Every time I play poker I want to ask this question to half a dozen people. You know the type. Huffing and puffing. Complaining. Shaking their head every time they lose the pot.
Even more insufferable are the serious poker players. Every time I hear a bad beat story or similar pithy whine, what I’m really hearing is, "WHY AM I NOT A MILLIONAIRE YET?"
Guys, let me ask you a question.
What is the point of playing poker?
The point of playing poker is just that: To play.
If we were to take up golf, what would be the point of golfing?
That’s right. To golf.
Businessmen golf all over the world to relax. They spend thousands of dollars a month to go out on the best greens.
They don’t expect to make money from their play.
Now, some of us prefer cardrooms to golf courses, because we need a little more excitement in our lives.
I’m from the era where these places were smoke filled. I remember worrying about drug dealers pulling guns at specific tables. When I was in a safe game where I could potentially walk out the door with hundreds of dollars, it felt like heaven.
It’s a joy to play cards. It’s a joy to hang out, shoot the breeze, watch sports, and try to make some money. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be relaxing.
If you’re not enjoying it, then why the hell would you do it?
It’s okay to lose money when you play cards. In fact, you should never gamble with money you can’t afford to lose.
If you were golfing for fun, you wouldn’t expect to make money. It’s the same thing with poker. It’s okay to have a recreational budget for the game, as long as you decide on a responsible amount.
It’s neat that poker provides the opportunity to possibly make money, but we shouldn’t expect it. This is supposed to be a recreational activity. You wouldn’t go to a movie and expect to be paid out $60.00.
"But Alex! I’m trying to do this for a living!"
Then you’re going to need to love this game even when you don’t even like it, my friend. Because let me tell you: There is more heartbreak in poker then there is in the stock market, dating, entrepreneurial work, and dog ownership combined.
This game will eat you up and spit you out unless you love the pain. Unless you want to be the boxer standing in the middle of the ring, grinning with bloodstained teeth at the crowd, then this game isn’t for you.
Me? I love cards, man. I love travelling all over the globe to gamble.
I’d do it for free. I mean that. If tomorrow the government told me I had to give every dollar I earned from poker to charity,
I’d still be playing. You know why? Because I love this damn game.
I love showing up early to tournaments to threebet dumbasses who take the early stages so passively. I love when the antes kick in so I can collect those small chips. I love when the tournament turns to a dog fight and I’m the only one who doesn’t care about busting. I love the tension before the final table. And I really really love final tables. That’s why I never want to do deals at them. I just want to keep playing.
Cash games? I love them too. I love being able to play as long as I want. I love walking out of a casino with crisp bills. I even love the lonely walk home in foreign lands wondering how it all went wrong.
You know why I love it? Because real life is boring. Real life is the same thing day in and day out. If someone made a movie out of the traditional person’s life, they’d be bored to tears.
Playing cards? Now, that’s fun. That’s exciting. It’s exciting precisely because it might not work out. If I hate the fact there’s gamble in the game, then I clearly don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
Let’s discuss that a little further, actually. Let’s see if you know what the hell you’re doing.
I want you to imagine a cardroom. Let’s say it’s in a snowy part of Canada, because hell, I like Canada. You and I have heard it’s a special cardroom. Unlike any other.
We drive up there and get in the 200 NL game. We play $1.00/$2.00 and double up. Yes!
"Sorry boys, you have to go to 400 NL," the floor manager tells us.
Weird rule. But okay, we go there.
We double up again. Oh my God, check out our luck tonight!
"Go to the $1,000 NL table boys," the floor manager says. "You’re not allowed to cash out until you do."
This cardroom is incredibly weird, but okay. We go there, and play some $5.00/$10.00.
Inexplicably, we double again. Oh my God, yes!!!
"Sorry boys, now you have to go to $10.00/$20.00."
Imagine if this went on till $200/$400 No Limit before you were allowed to cash out anything. Imagine if this special
Canadian casino only let you start at $1.00/$2.00 and work your way up to $200/$400 before you ever got paid a dime.
How often would you expect to cash out of this casino?
You probably answered something along the lines of "never" just now.
Yet, what I just described to you is a $215 major.
When you start a $215 major, your chips are worth $215…close to the starting stack in $1.00/$2.00. You can convert the blinds in the tournament to whatever stakes you want, but you’re playing $200 NL. And you’re not getting any real money out of this game till you get to the final table, which will play like $200/$400 with short stacks.
Does this sound like an awful game to you?
Then you’re not built for tournament poker!
I would love to play at that casino, especially if a bunch of dolts frequented it. I would expect to lose my $200 NL buy-in most of the time, but I wouldn’t care. I’d do it for the hell of it. And because I’ve seen the morons at that $200/$400 table, and wow, they can’t play a lick.
Would I get mad if the same guy kept making the $200/$400 table? Absolutely not. This entire casino is insane. Of course, someone’s going to run it up a couple of times. I’m here to gamble, and strange things happen when gambling takes place.
I could write for another ten hours on why I love playing cards, but let me finish with this:
Everything you want from poker, guys, is on the other side of fun.
If your goal is to play poker, then every part of the process is fun. The study, the hand history reviews, the early levels, the final tables, the late nights playing cash, the setbacks, all of it. The more bad sessions you take, the more you grow.
You become antifragile, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb would put it. You become the Hydra whose head can’t be cut off. You become the boxer bleeding from his mouth and laughing, too insanely in love with the ring to ever be handed a loss.
Half of you can’t play the way you want to because you’re too afraid to make a mistake. That’s like a baseball player not swinging at any pitch that’s not perfectly across the plate, because he’s afraid of how stupid he’ll look when he swings and misses.
That player has no chance. The pitcher will never give him his pitch. He’ll get a walk every now and again, but real success will always elude him.
All you guys complaining about how hard the games have gotten: Get over it. Did you really think this game was going to be soft forever, with tens of millions of people playing it around the world? You really thought nobody intelligent was going to crack it?
Nobody is going to raise/fold 9-9 to you anymore. No one is going to let you open every single hand anymore. They’re going to threebet you. They’re going to call your continuation bets. It’s on you to take ownership of the situation and adapt.
Nobody is going to throw you a fastball across the plate anymore. You need to learn to hit a curve and a slider.
Some of you are looking for your redemption in a damn card game. Stop it. It’s a game. Nothing more. Nothing less. Have fun with it. Strike out, on occasion. That’s your only chance to hit a homerun.