Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dispute resolution in competitive gaming

In chess tournaments, all players, from tykes who have barely ceased to wear diapers, to seniors who have taken it up again, learn the protocol of quietly stopping the clock and seeking out a director. In bridge tournaments, where the median age is about sixty, an aggrieved player feebly calls out "director" at a volume slightly above the standard hushed table chatter, and helplessly waits for someone to show up. In Magic, the teenage pro screams "JUDGE!" and imperiously waits for his demand to be met. Poker players, generally aged twenty-one and up, tend to have the good fortune of having floor personnel nearby, and can call out for a director or floorman in a reasonable voice and it doesn't take long for disputes to be resolved.

Harbor no illusions, however, about poker players being sensible or having good manners; as a group, the way they play their cards and the decorum with which they address their tablemates should quickly quash any such notion. They produce significantly more cash flow for the hosts of their events than other gamers do, which inclines the staff to be more sensitive to their needs. In this regard, poker sits at an odd threshold between other kinds of gaming and other kinds of gambling. Poker brings casinos negligible profit compared to traditional casino games, but by comparison chess, bridge, and Magic tournaments as capitalistic ventures are a joke for tournament organizers, who tend to be motivated more by the love of the game and the service to their gaming community.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

on the life of a degenerate seeker of +EV

One particular idiot yesterday chastised me for smoothcalling a raise with pocket aces in a live single-table SNG at Hawaiian Gardens. "NEVER slowplay aces", he declared. He babbled some faulty analysis of the hand, then left the table, as he no longer had any chips. Then he wandered back to berate me some more, and I explained that I was not actually interested in receiving a poker lesson from him. He went on to say "Well, every pro agrees with me," a spectacular claim. Irritated, I told him that couldn't be true, since I did not. He said I must not be a pro because he had never heard of me, but at this point he was satisfied with his trolling, and departed for good. Aside from being an abject douchebag, he also betrayed an inherent lack of understanding of what the word "professional" means.

I play poker for a living. I am not famous. I am not rich. I simply show a net profit when I play poker and it is adequate to cover my living expenses. If I ask what your profession is, whether you answer law clerk, dental hygienist, options trader, or fry cook, would it not be most peculiar if I stated you must be lying about what you do for a living, since I had never heard of you?

I suspect that NO poker pro would categorically say that you must NEVER slowplay pocket aces, although naturally pros at all levels hold varying degrees of opinions on the frequency with which such a play should be employed. If someone is making a living at poker and holds such a belief, I'd really like to have access to the games he or she is playing in.

One of my favorite movies is the awkwardly titled "White Men Can't Jump". Awkward not because the title isn't catchy, but because it's not really about basketball, and it's not about some white/black culture clash. It's about the life of a marginally successful hustler, a guy who is perpetually a fish out of water in the environment in which he's chosen to immerse himself to make a living, and the impact the lack of security and his questionable decision-making skills have on his personal relationships. Like Billy Hoyle, my life is strange, free, exhilarating, heartbreaking and frustrating.