My name is Lee Jones and I get poker. I’m not sure when I first began to get it, but I remember hosting a poker game birthday party at my house in high school. Mind you, this was decades before Rounders, Chris Moneymaker, and televised poker tournaments moved the game from the Elks Club on Thursday night to dens and university cafeteria tables all over the United States. I didn’t play much in the early years, but every time I did, I thought, “This game is cool – there’s more to it than meets the eye.”
To get poker simply means you’ve stuck your head below the surface of the game, and you like what you see.
You get poker if...
You sit with a buddy and discuss a hand that you played against him last night. You spend an hour talking about a hand that took one minute, but neither of you thinks this is odd. You tell a small group of friends you just finished a six-hour poker session. Those who don’t get it will ask how you could play so long – those who do get it will ask why you didn’t play longer. Finally, those who get poker understand that if three people play “credit card roulette” to decide who pays for a meal, each person is effectively paying for 1/3 of the check.
This is a blog for people who get poker. Or want to get poker.
It will have strategy, because poker players love to learn the game better. I’ll dissect a hand and wonder if I could have played it better by raising on the turn rather than calling.
It will have stories, because we all love a good story, and a poker table has been the setting for more good stories than a lifetime of blogs could tell. Did I tell you about that time I got pulled out of my dorm room at a summer music camp to fill an empty seat in a late-night game the camp counselors were having?
This blog will look at the game of poker – how it affects our society and how society affects the game. Poker has been played in America for 200 years, and it is shot through our national DNA. Furthermore, its recent popularity spike has changed how it fits into the national conversation. During his 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama recognized Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu at a fundraiser, and approached them to talk poker. Barack Obama gets poker.
And I’ll use poker as a lens to look at the world around us. More than any other game, poker reflects the problems and decisions that people face in the real world. I’ve long believed that if you get poker, you have an invaluable tool for making good real-life decisions. That was one of the things that drew me to the game in the first place and I use this aspect of it to draw in others.
For instance, did you know that understanding the value of position in poker can help you negotiate a better price when you’re trying to buy a car? I’ve spent years trying to persuade people that community college students should be taught poker. The student thinks she’s learning a game, but invaluable life lessons are sneaking into her decision-making and perspective processes.
I may not publish a piece in this blog entitled, “Poker and Decision Making: A Community College Curriculum”. But I don’t promise I won’t.
But what if I don't get poker?
Early in this essay, I promised that my blog would be a place for those who get poker, or who want to get poker. I consider bringing new people into the poker tent one of my primary responsibilities. If you are a would-be pokergetter, you probably know it already. Maybe you watch the TV poker shows when your remote accidentally lands on them. You don’t understand everything that’s going on, and half the commentary and vocabulary are incomprehensible. But you understand that this hand is better than that one, and you love seeing a cold bluff win a big pot. Or you’re at a casino, and stop as you’re walking past the poker room. The action is too fast and subtle to grasp, but you’re intrigued, and if it weren’t so terrifying (and potentially expensive) you’d love to sit down.
This blog is for you.
You may find that you’re not able to grasp every concept in every blog post, particularly those about strategy. That’s okay. You know, I’ve been playing guitar longer than I’ve been playing poker, but there are plenty of times when I watch somebody play something on the guitar and think, “I have absolutely no idea of how he’s doing that.” But I still enjoy the music and even trying to understand the magic taking place on the fretboard.
You will find that, before you know it, you’ll “get” poker too.
I have no idea where this blog will take us – I consider the entire poker landscape fair game. What I do know is that if you get poker, or want to get poker, you’ll enjoy the journey. I’m glad you’re along.
Finally, please leave a comment. Reflect on what you read, add to the story from your perspective. Or suggest another place we might visit. I look forward to hearing from you.
Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.