April 06, 2010
Every few weeks or so, the forums (any poker forum) get to a point where they start to question pokerâ€™s â€œvalueâ€. Does the successful pro contribute anything to society? Isnâ€™t he/she leeching off the vices of the addicts? Isnâ€™t that (young), brilliant mind, that can beat poker an opportunity lost? Shouldnâ€™t the pro spend his time bettering the world than wasting the hours away at the tables?
A lot of players also donâ€™t feel fulfillment. Is this really what I was set out to do? Am I ok withering away at home, in my underwear, with no social interaction and horrible eating and sleeping habits?
Last week Mike â€œTimexâ€ McDonald decided to retire (link to blog , read it, itâ€™s quite good). He referred to poker as â€œa way to let time passâ€. Now before you go saying, â€œwft, a 20-year old having deep insights into life and poker, hahahaâ€, read the blog and the follow up interview: link ; they are really quite interesting, but a bit depressing at the time. Heâ€™s saying that because of the special circumstances that surround you with poker, you end up having basically 0 non-poker friends, you end up in a spiral of ever recurring activities and prop bets. Is that really fulfilling?!?!?!
So is there a point to this blog post? Am I here to depress you? Quite the opposite! As with everything, done with moderation it is my belief that poker can be quite good for you!
About a week or two ago, I was having my vegging out day, playing poker, WoW and watching TED videos, when I ran across this:
Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world (link to TED talk)
Watch it, itâ€™s nice, go on. Iâ€™ll waitâ€¦
I donâ€™t agree or are very â€œmehâ€ with a lot of the conclusions at the end, they seem a bit hippy, â€œoh look at all the good weâ€™re doingâ€, but there are some salient points that stood out to me in the video:
a) The game hooks us by giving us little chunks, little pockets of satisfaction, quests that are doable. Poker is the quintessential game that does that. Play every hand (chunk) to the best of your abilities and youâ€™ll make money in the long run. Plus the game keeps you hooked, because no matter how awful you run in the session, youâ€™re still gonna win a few hands. The look of that geeky kid playing the game that the lady showed in the beginning, could have been just mine, running a huge bluff on somebody and getting the pot shipped my way, being at a final table on some tourney â€“ an epic win! Iâ€™m engaged, the world around me is gone! Gaming doesnâ€™t mean alternative reality, poker is very much gaming, imo.
b) People are playing a lot, weâ€™re talking about human evolution timescales! In poker, too. Itâ€™s not just: read a book, play a few hours and youâ€™ve got the game figured out. No, it takes months and months to learn, refine and become a very good player. 10,000 hours to become a master a la Malcolm Gladwellâ€™s Outliers (link â€“ http://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017922)? Yeah, I believe there are many poker masters out there among you!
c) What exactly are poker players getting so good at (174 million people in the world spend at least an hour a day on average playing online games)? In my mind, every skill you pick up in poker has an application to the outside world. If you do want to make a difference it is up to you to get involved with it, be it to go learn about investing and risk management, for example or to give back to society in a way that you see fit as a another.
Let me elaborate on the last point a little bit. McGonigal says: â€œwe feel that we are not as good in games as we are in real life! In game world, we are the most likely to stick with it, to stand up after failure, much more than in real world.â€
But as poker players, successful ones, that is, we do have the drives that she mentions. Optimism, we are doers, we wanna bet this thing! We are great at finding groups of like minded people and put all our energy together to tackle the problem together. What else is DC, but a great community that tackles the poker as a group, might as well be a raid! :) As of now, twoplustwo is the 6th largest gaming forum on the internet, yes that includes all of the role playing forums!
We are productive, we put a lot of work into beating it. I know that I watch at least 20 hours of poker videos every month, play thousands of hands, discuss, do session reviews, do research. One thingâ€™s for sure, we are not the lazy bums a lot of people depict us at. We are happy working hard at poker!
I guess thatâ€™s where the similarities end and the video then goes on to talk about some games like â€œWorld without Oilâ€, which I find to be a bit condescending to gamers out there.
BUT, you do have the skills! You do have all the tools you need to get out there and make a difference. You donâ€™t need to have a â€œreal jobâ€ to help the world! You can use your analytical skills, your intelligence, your drive to beat the game of poker to do good in the world. We need motivated thinkers that can break down each big situation (PLO) into little packets (hands) without losing the big picture (reads).
I donâ€™t wanna turn this into a â€œpoker is like lifeâ€ post. There are enough of those on the internet. My main point is that learning to beat poker can make you into a mean solving machine in real life. And that you can apply that to all sorts of things in life. And that there will always be people be willing to listen to good advice and that you are not a lost opportunity, but actually an opportunity in the making.
Some of the most intelligent conversations go on at meetings Iâ€™ve had with poker players. We have the skills to analyze some problem often without sense of attachment (to the pot :P ) or emotion, be able to calculate the risks. We can create value, it is up to you to do it. If you feel you are not bettering yourself or your surroundings with your playing, scale back, invest in new interests, but never forget TO PLAY!!!
Oh, and if youâ€™re thinking of â€œgiving backâ€ to society. If you feel like a leech, may I suggest ONE FOR CHARITY (link) organized by DCâ€™s very own BigBadBabar and OnTheRail15. It encourages you to donate 1% of your winnings to charity. You donâ€™t have to participate, just keep it in mind, that it is up to YOU to better society, not some job or social convention that will magically come flying to you.