Life Lessons From Poker

Since I received positive feedback on Life Lessons From Blackjack last week, I thought I’d share some lessons I learned from poker as well. 918kiss


Again, feel free to skip the background story if you just want to read the lessons part. I only include this for the curious.

I first learned to play poker when I was 18, just playing nickel-dime-quarter games with friends from school. I was a fairly weak player back then, mostly using a loose-aggressive style and bluffing way too much. But I enjoyed the game and would usually play at least once a week. Of course, this was only in home games where I mostly played those deviant forms of poker not found in casinos. My favorite game was called 3-5-7. I only played for fun at this time and for many years thereafter, I never took the game seriously.

When I was 21 and living in L.A., some friends and I made a few trips to Commerce Casino. I played mostly 7-stud at the time and a little bit of hold’em. I didn’t keep records back then, but overall I probably broke even. I played at Commerce perhaps 5 times total. It was an hour’s drive from my home, so it wasn’t convenient enough to bother with, since I was only playing for fun anyway.

From the age of 24 to 33, I hardly played poker at all, maybe once a year on average. It just wasn’t a big part of my life.

In January 2004, my family and I moved to Vegas. The availability of poker games in Vegas (and the recent surge in popularity) means that you can always find a game. The Las Vegas Strip is only a 20-minute drive from my home, and Downtown Vegas is 15 minutes away. Plus the closest casino to my house (Santa Fe Station) recently added a poker room, so now a game is only 10 minutes away.

When I first moved here, I thought it would be fun to play poker more often, since I always enjoyed a good game. I had no intention of making it into a career, but nor did I have any interest in losing money at it. I figured that if I could learn how to count cards at blackjack, surely I could become decent enough at poker to consistently beat the low-limit games. That way I could have fun and win a little money at the same time.

Turns out I was right.

Based on recommendations from others, I picked up a few books on the subject. My favorite was Winning Low-Limit Hold’em by Lee Jones. I followed Jones’ recommendations fairly closely, and they worked well.

I only play the cheapest limits, like $1-3 and $2-6 spread games or the $2-4 structured games. I play in smoke-free poker rooms, which fortunately are becoming more common. Personally I like the campy/friendly (and smoke-free) atmosphere of the Excalibur poker room, so that’s where I usually play. It’s a very winnable, low-pressure game if you’re halfway decent, especially on a Friday or Saturday night when the place is filled with tourists who are mostly there for fun and free drinks. I know most of the dealers there by name, and all are very friendly.

I’m not out to make a career out of this, and I certainly don’t consider myself a shark. I just love the fun and the challenge of the game. I’ve always enjoyed competition.


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