Anybody visiting my office or regularly reading this column knows I like poker. I learned to play draw and stud at my parents’ kitchen table before we had television.
Today, my office walls are festooned with tournament photos marking wonderful memories. My annual pilgrimage to the World Series of Poker dance is an absolute joy.
Whether I get into the money or not in Las Vegas isn’t important. I always fly back home with a huge bankroll of memories, which is most important.
My clients are also friends, so we routinely chat about things unrelated to accounting and tax matters. They glance over my shoulder at the pictures on my walls and often mention they’d love to give the WSOP dance a whirl “someday.”
I believe the first rule about doing things you want to do is “sooner is better than later.” Many mention they couldn’t compete but that’s nonsense. Only a few professional players might be considered truly gifted, but they’re a tiny minority.
The important operative word here is “few.” The vast majority of the 75,000 participants in this annual poker shindig are folks exactly like you and me.
Some of the young folks are into theatrics, doing their best James Dean impression agonizing over calls or folds, although most never heard of James Dean. But by a huge plurality, we ordinary home-game card duffers fill the tables. It’s very comfortable.
Poker as a sport is so wonderful because it mixes skill and luck like no other contest. It’s possible for rank amateurs to compete successfully against professionals.
I’ve read poker books but never got much out of them. I don’t pretend to be a good player so take shelter under the roof of common sense.
In the final analysis, I see poker simply as a card game. In most situations, high cards beat low cards and strong hands are better than weak ones.
It sounds stupidly simple but given the poker gods’ impact on results, you can get carried away with technicalities at the expense of logic. Strong doesn’t always triumph and weak isn’t always vanquished, hence there’s room for people like me at any poker table.
I don’t take the game serious enough to worry about nuances such as “tells.” I’m not sharp enough to note an opponent’s strengths or weaknesses by how much their pupils dilate or pulse throbs in an exposed vein. If somebody looks at their cards and screams, then I pay attention.
I simply try to play poker with some common sense and a lot of patience. I avoid playing out of position. I seldom call if I can’t raise and I run from naked aces like the plague.
Given the pure democracy of this most famous of poker tournaments, I suggest anybody thinking they’re not good enough look in the mirror. The reflection looking back is the core of WSOP tournaments.
This thing is well worth its place on a lot of bucket lists, certainly worthy of serious consideration by anyone who ever wanted to do it someday. “Somedays” don’t always come.
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.