Poker

The Ex-GF loves to play poker. That, and the stuff Starbucks calls coffee, are her two big addictions. Now, I’m not willing to take up coffee drinking, but I figured it helps if married couples share a few interests, so I started learning how to play poker. I’ve probably played ten or twelve times in my life, all but two or three in the last six months. And lately I’ve been lucky… last night I played a small (50 person) tournament and won it, taking home over $800. And I’ve actually been making (small amounts) of money playing (I keep track – as a consultant you learn to think about hourly rates) in the last two or three months, even leaving out last night. The Ex-GF thinks I’m a natural. I think I’ve been very lucky, and that so far I’ve been able to read people better than they can read me… which can change very quickly.

Which leads to a few thoughts:

1. It took twelve hours to make $800. And a lot of luck was necessary. There was at least one hand in which I was all-in that I should not have won… once the cards were on the table, it was clear my odds were under 20%. I also lost two big hands for which my odds of winning were very high.
2. I’ve noticed that as often as not, the best players in this poker league the Ex-GF plays in don’t make the final table. Luck makes one heck of a difference. Presumably this is true of the professional poker players. How much is luck and how much is skill for people who know what they are doing? How can you tell?
3. Is it a good thing for the Ex-GF and I if I turn out to be a better player than she is?
4. I have been playing up the bumbling fool persona (its even more on the spot in real life than it is with my on-line posts) – my feeling is that its better to be under-estimated than over-estimated. But is that true of poker? I’ve noticed people are more likely to fold to those players everyone knows are good.
5. As per item 4… while I was trying to sell my Inspector Clouseau routine to everyone, the Ex-GF was going around telling people about her husband, the “Ph.D. economist who makes a living crunching numbers.” Did that help my cause or or hurt it?
6. As a Ph.D. economist who makes a living crunching numbers and who has been very lucky as of late, my own opinion at this time is you don’t play the odds, you play the other players. You have to have some idea of what the odds are, but if you play the odds you will be abused by people who play you.
7. Mistakes come from being emotional. But if the price of not making mistakes is not feeling emotions (this does give me an advantage – I am extremely even-keeled in real life, and besides, poker is the Ex-GF’s thing, not mine) then is poker really a hobby for those who play it?
8. My wife’s poker buddies are pretty cool people, on average. I was expecting, well, a bunch of drunkards or something. Instead, its an eclectic crowd, ranging from young barely twenty-something hip kids to some fifty something corporate types and hippies. A surprising number of them, even for LA, have a connection to the film and tv industry.
9. Women seem to make up anywhere from 20% to 40% of the attendees at each of these tournaments. But there’s rarely more than one woman at the final table… and the last few players seem to always be male. My theory… women have a harder time disassociating the social aspect of game from the, well, winning aspect of the game. That’s not to say that all men can do it… but the guys that I’ve noticed seem to be the best players in the group all can. In fact, I told the Ex-GF that if she wants to be a better player, she’s going to have to stop playing like a girl. Am I right about this?

Finally, I have a suspicion I’m going to have to play poker every so often (once every two or three weeks) for a long time. Any suggestions to being a better player? Or any comments about poker?