Monday, June 30, 2014

The State of Poker: Thoughts fresh from a recent trip to Las Vagas.

I have been a poker player, in one game or another, since around age 16.  I started playing 7-Stud for pennies, moved on to Texas Hold-em out of necessity after the Moneymaker boom, and have recently been more interested in different variations of Omaha, Razz and other games, preferring to play in mixed-game tournaments more recently since I find the action to be more interesting.

All of that said, my days playing poker in casino poker rooms likely came to an end last week while I was in Las Vegas.

The short reason is that I just don't find the current environment of poker to be all that attractive.

The longer reason is a little bit more nuanced.

Let me first say this. If you're a level 2 or above card-sharp there is now more money to be made in poker rooms across the country than ever before. The preponderance of level 1 players, calling stations, and TV wannabes can make sitting down to a poker game very lucrative if you have the time, patience and ability to make the right reads and plays. I'm not walking away from the game because I'm losing money at it. I'm walking away because it's just not fun.

There was a time you had a better than average chance of having to play real hard at a 1/2 NL game. Not any more. The modern poker room has become a mish-mash of either grumpy old men (possibly myself recently if I'm honest) and young players with little regard for poker etiquette or an understanding of what costs them money.  Over the last week I saw the following:

 - Players at 4/8 L or 1/2 NL games wearing sweaters and sunglasses.
 - A guy who would holler "BOOM!!!" every time he did as little as sweep the blinds in a 1/2 NL game.
 - A lady get called a "donkey" who checked her blind (no raise in front of her) flopped a set of 4's and beat a guy with KK despite having only a 4-2 in her hole cards.
 - Got verbally thrashed by "BOOM!!!" guy when he went all-in with 8-4, I called with AA, and he caught an 882 on the flop.
 - A gentlemen took 5 minutes to call into a $10 bet, all the time acting as if it was a cool $Million on the line.
 - More rules calls and arguments than I've seen in 25 years playing the game.

Poker now is being ruled by two groups.

 1. The rules Nazi's.
 2. The wanna-be poker brats.

Neither of these two groups is all that much fun to sit down and play with.  As I said earlier, there is money to be made in poker rooms these days, but I'm not a professional poker player and (to be honest) I'm not going to make a living playing poker for the small amount of time that I play it.

At the end of the day, for me, poker is about having fun. 

I used to enjoy sitting down at a table, swapping stories with different people, talking about sports and other things. Playing poker was a release. When you got beat you said "good hand" or "nice river" and play went on.

These day's almost every hand is viewed as a referendum on one's ability to play. Small wins are greeted with histrionics, small disagreements over rules turn into repeated verbal squabbles and bad beats either turn into personal insults or worse. Poker has been taken over by a young-ish group of punks and, as a means of entertainment, it's fairly dead right now.You're more likely to be entertained at blackjack or even penny slots than you are the poker room. That might come off as a little "get off my lawn" but it's true. Bad beats I can handle. Bad sportsmanship on top of a bad beat?  Life is just too short.

Because of that, and because gambling for me is pure entertainment, I'm walking away from the casino game for good.  Sure, you'll still probably find me at a home game swapping cigars, beers and stories but when it comes to spending my casino dollars wisely?

I'll see you at the blackjack tables.

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