Five Overrated and Five Underrated Things About Poker
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2011-02-20, by OzoneThis week, we bring you five overrated things about poker and five underrated things about poker. Overrated, underrated, please meet and shake hands prior to the coin toss to determine who goes first. Good. Underrated, you get to select heads or tails since you're just so underrated. Tails is the selection. The coin has landed on heads. Overrated, you're up first.
Five Overrated Things About Poker
1. Poker as a challenging mind game. There's a lot of hype built up about how challenging poker is as a game and how it "takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master". This is all a bit ridiculous. Anyone who has taken the time to master a game like chess or backgammon should agree with me when I say that poker isn't that hard of a game. If you're smart, good at math, and willing to put in a little work to figure out how to succeed as a poker player, you could be playing at a world-class level within a couple of years at the most. Compare this to chess where you need nothing short of preternatural intelligence combined with literally years and years of thinking, living, and breathing chess. And if you do that, you might be good enough to be considered one of the top 1,000 players in the world, but anyone in the top 20 will still handily crush you anytime they play you. In that light, poker looks like a game of tic-tac-toe.
2. No limit hold'em. The supposed "Cadillac of poker" may well just be that as long as there are Ferraris, high-end Mercedes-Benzes, and a Lexus or two on the road as well. In other words, no-limit hold'em is not exactly the most challenging or interesting form of poker. It can be. When played with very deep stacks, it can be a very interesting game. But whether it's a tournament or a cash game, most no-limit is played for fairly short-stacks. I asked online poker extraordinaire Shaun Deeb what he thinks the most interesting forms of poker are. You won't find "no-limit hold'em" in his response which was: "no-limit triple draw and split pot games."
3. Playing for a living. The idea of quitting your day job to sit at home all day playing poker for a living has been made out to sound pretty sexy by various poker media outlets. But you don't hear a lot of people talk about the downsides of being a poker pro all that much. The truth is, the life of the median "pro poker player" isn't all that glamorous. It's a lot of work and emotional stress for an income that isn't nearly as fabulous as many aspiring pros wish it was. Additionally, years spent as a pro poker player are years in which you're honing a skill that may not be all that valuable in the future. Keep your day job.
4. Phil Hellmuth. Phil Hellmuth is billed (primarily by himself) as some tremendous poker force. While it's pretty obvious that Phil is gifted at a.) self-promoting and b.) no-limit hold'em tournaments with weak fields, he's really not much of a poker player beyond that. In terms of sheer "poker genius", there are many, many players in the world much more talented than Phil Hellmuth.
5. Tells. One of the most glamorized and over-hyped things about poker are live "tells". Your average non-poker person probably envisions poker to be this game of staring at your opponent and winning millions when you correctly decipher what that twitch of their eyebrow meant. In actuality, this is all mostly hogwash. While tells certainly play some part in a live poker player's arsenal, they are nearly insignificant compared to betting patterns, table dynamics, etc. In short, poker is not nearly as sexy as as your average non-poker person thinks it is.
And now for...
Five Underrated Things About Poker
1. Poker as a training tool for life. It seems like a fair amount of non-poker people carry an attitude of, "poker players are just people who play cards for money and therefore are unqualified to speak intelligently on things like politics, foreign affairs, philosophy, etc." I think this is a pretty unfortunate attitude that people have. What they may not realize is that many poker players are really fantastically intelligent people who prefer to make a living working for themselves rather than grinding out some type of a day job or career. Additionally, people may not realize how much you can learn about life by learning how to succeed at poker. I often think someone qualified should write a book titled "Everything I Know About Life I Learned from Poker". Any poker player has probably at one time or another made a helpful analogy about life using poker terminology.
2. Poker as an interesting conversation starter. On the balance, poker players do a horribly inadequate job of leveraging their interesting career or hobby as a means to acquire and win over the hearts of non-poker people (particularly females). When you sit down and think about it, the average non-poker person probably finds the fact that someone "plays poker for a living" to be quite interesting. Unfortunately, years spent doing math problems in front of a computer screen have made poker players a pretty socially awkward bunch. It's a shame that more poker players don't capitalize on the sexy-sounding nature of what they do for money.
3. For its ability to transcend language and culture. Poker brings people together in an awesome way. I have to credit newly-minted PokerStars Team Online Pro shaniac for pointing this one out. He's absolutely right. What else can bring a teenage American kid with acne, a Middle-Eastern businessman, a retired old British alcoholic, a computer-wiz from Silicon Valley, and a cantankerous Dutch douchebag all to the same table in Berlin for an entire day but poker? It's absolutely fascinating how much poker brings people from all cultures, age-groups, and gender together. This is no doubt one of the greatest pleasures of spending time in the poker world. For example: I've battled for six-figure sums on a cruise ship off the coast of the Mediterranean where I was the only person at the table native to the English language. I mean that is "stuff to tell your grandchildren" type of awesome.
4. Online poker. If you're on this website reading this article, you probably take online poker for granted by now. But think about it: you can sit at home in your underwear winning piles of money against people from all corners of the world thanks to online poker. Look at it this way: in 1990 if someone told you that you'd one day win an amount of not-insignificant cash while sitting at a computer in your boxers playing a game, you'd probably think your future-life sounds like that of a king!
5. Great relief from boredom. If there are any Republican Congressmen reading this, I'm sure they'll say this is one reason why poker should be outlawed indefinitely, but if the game has nothing going for it but one thing, that one thing might be a great way to distract yourself from boredom or other issues in life. Sit down, buy into a game for an amount of money large enough to excite you but small enough that you won't care if you lose, and watch the hours pass as you remain fully interested in what will happen next. Never do you hear someone say, "oh just go play some poker!" after someone complains of boredom, but maybe they should!
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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